After having modest success at the Greenbrier Classic a few weeks ago, Tiger Woods entered the British Open with hopes of contending for his first major championship since 2008. Instead, he shot an opening-round 76 on Thursday and will likely not make the cut heading into this weekend.
Why? What happened to Woods between Greenbrier and St. Andrews?
“I think he’s in a place that’s presenting a lot of challenges to him,” Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It’s tough to find your game at these types of events. They’re the hardest events that we have. They’re set up to challenge every aspect of the eventual champion’s game, and the conditions are going to be extremely difficult. So you look at a venue like St. Andrews versus a venue like Greenbrier. Greenbrier is a free for all. The fairways are wide, they’re soft, it’s wet and you can go out there and work on your ball striking because it gives you a chance to score. That was his best performance of the year thus far. I think three out of his four rounds were in the 60s.”
Woods hit 65 percent of his fairways and almost 80 percent of greens in regulation. He also notched his first bogey-free round since 2013. It was a good weekend.
But Greenbrier is not St. Andrews.
“I think a lot of people that were thinking that was going to parlay into something really good here just don’t understand the differences in the conditions,” Begay explained. “We saw him hit a couple really poor iron shots on the first two holes that led to bogeys. So when a lot of the players were starting off birdie-par or birdie-birdie, Tiger’s starting off bogey-bogey and he’s already three or four shots behind the rest of the field going to the third tee – and you’re just not going to make up that kind of ground over the last 16 holes at a major championship like the one being held at St. Andrews.”
Begay believes Woods’ struggles are more mental than mechanical.
“At this level, it’s mental,” he said. “I think that when you think of all the wonderful shots he’s hit throughout his career, he knows how to do it. Every player out there knows how to do it. . . . (But) it erodes your mental game when you have a little bit of doubt, and that’s where Tiger is at right now. He’s just struggling a little bit with finding some firm, stable ground to fight from. . . . It’s tough to play this game regardless of whether you’re Tiger Woods or anybody if you don’t have any confidence.”
Begay believes that Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott will all be in contention Sunday.
“I think those are three names to keep your eye on,” Begay said. “I think it’s going to be difficult for Dustin Johnson to maintain this pace, so I think you might see him fall back a little bit. But those three guys seem to be finding a great groove. But weather is supposed to be pretty ugly again tomorrow. Then it just becomes a little bit of luck, unfortunately, but I think those are the guys to keep your eye on.”