Is there any golfer anywhere with more positive memories than Tiger at Firestone? He shouldn’t be the favorite but based on what we’ve seen of late Tiger belongs in that next tier of contenders. He’s playing well! And his presence certainly ups the intrigue for this two-week stretch.
At 425 yards No. 1 is one of the shorter par 4s at Bellerive. Rory and Tiger find the fairway while it looks like JT ends up in the left-side bunker. Leaderboard update: Four players are now at -3: JT Rafa Cabrella-Bello Stewart Cink and Rickie who birdied two of his last three holes!
Tiger Woods. Plenty will focus on a disappointing finish at Firestone but even this week I saw plenty to be encouraged by. A couple of days of intense practice and we’ll see a dialed-in Tiger in Missouri.
He hits a rising bullet that escape the trees…only to hook hard and re-enter the trouble farther down the fairway. Thomas and McIlroy find the green inside 20 feet for birdies. And now another Tiger escape shot coming.
I’m giving the nod to Scotland but let’s say thisyou can’t go wrong either way. For those of you have never been to either but have been to Bandon Dunes I would say Bandon is more Scottish than Irish until you get to the bar.
Iron play should be a major factor and it all sounds like a fit for him. Also if you like a history angle Bellerive hosted the U.S. Open that Gary Player won to complete his own career slam. What’s one more?
Phil hacks out and his shot settles in the right rough 70 yards short. Early trouble. Meanwhile a massive crowd on No. 10 greets Tiger Rory and JT. Teeing off on No. 10 Mickelson blows his shot into the rough well left of the fairway on the par 4. And so it begins.
Does prohibitive mean you cannot make a case for somebody else? I’ll make a case against JT and his sunshine bandit is extremely difficult to do it for eight consecutive rounds. Four is hard five is harder — then there’s six and seven. Eight is way way hard.
I guess the question of “Who is the favorite?” on a weekly basis will become only more meaningful in an era of broad betting interest in golf. It’s not like picking horses. Having said that Woods’s past success at Firestone is not any kind of predictor of whether he can win this week.
Rory. The driving game he showed in Akron for one thing. Also how long can you keep a good man down? Sleeper: Bryson. He’s earned his place in the darkhorse category because of the talk around him. Example: he’s choking his way off the Ryder Cup team (some people will say) he had a fit of driving-range craziness (some will say) at the Open and he was classless and looked lost (some will say) in the final day in Germany.
Not sure if he’s fatigued but in this comeback Tiger’s best opportunities to win come at courses where he can hit fewer drivers and play tactical golf. I don’t think Bellerive is that kind of track. He can win again if his health holds and he stays on his current path but this doesn’t feel like the week.
On the quality of courses I’d say too close to call. But if I had one trip to make I’d make it Scotland and not for the history but for the geographyit’s just easier to play lots and lots of great courses with less travel hassle there.