Every major championship is unique. No matter the venue or the tournament, all major championships are played in tough conditions on tight golf courses with high rough and quick greens. Even the Masters, played at Augusta National each year, can be unique depending on the conditions and the weather, and every player must take time before the tournament begins to plan just how they want to play each hole for four straight days.
But the 2006 British Open might have been the best prepped golf tournament in the history of the game. Tiger Woods was coming into the Open Championship on the heels of his first ever missed cut at a major as a professional, posting matching 76s in his opening two rounds at Winged Foot to head home early. But the British Open was always the tournament that seemed to fit Tiger the best, mostly because it's the type of golf tournament that forces players to think from the green back to the tee box.
In 2000, when Woods won his first ever Claret Jug, he avoided every bunker at the Old Course at St. Andrews, something so incredible it's almost hard to fathom considering how many sand traps there are scattered around the property.
In '05, he again took home the Claret Jug at St. Andrews, but people started to wonder if that was the only Open venue that Tiger could dominate.
That's why the '06 Open performance was legendary.
Tiger came to Hoylake with more than just the new-found fear of missing cuts at a major. His father had passed away in May, and Woods was dealing with the loss of his mentor, his coach and his best friend as the tournament got going.
But Tiger had a game plan that he stuck to the entire week, and it was a plan that might not have given him the best birdie opportunities at Royal Liverpool, but it kept him out of any major trouble on golf courses that can sneak up and get you. Tiger wasn't going to pull driver, realizing before the tournament started that the golf course was so baked out that long irons would both find the fairway and keep him out of trouble, losing yardage with the knowledge that he would be playing most shots from the middle of each fairway.
This is what Tiger wrote back in 2012 for the LPGA as they headed to Royal Liverpool.
"When I got to Hoylake I had to decide whether to lay up to the fairway bunkers or try to fly them. They had redone the bunkers and you couldn’t advance the ball. There were some that you had to hit it out sideways. By staying with my plan, I think I hit over 80 percent of the fairways utilizing a 3-wood and a 2-iron. I had three eagles that week and nothing bigger than my seven bogeys."
But planning is just a quarter of the battle when majors are concerned. Not only do you have to have flawless blueprints, but you have to execute them if you really want to contend, and Woods was almost perfect with the way he golfed his ball that week.
Woods opened with a 5-under 67, followed that up with a 7-under 65, and did all this with basically 13 clubs in his bag. Tiger pulled driver once all week, realized on Thursday when he hit it on the par-5 16th that he wouldn't need it again, and avoided the urge that so many golfers have to pull out the big stick and try to boom it down the hot and dry fairways of Hoylake.
Tiger won that Open Championship by two shots over Chris DiMarco, having to fend off Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott over the weekend at a golf course he owned.
It was the last Claret Jug that Woods has won, but the memory is still special to golf fans that got the chance to see Woods simply outsmart the golf course and the field for a week at Royal Liverpool, and while he won't be nearly that sharp this week, seeing Tiger sting a few long irons on Hoylake's fast fairways will bring back memories to a time when his golf game, and golf swing, were equal to the way he got himself ready for major championships.
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