Leading up to the U.S. Open, we'll offer up our thoughts on some of the game's best players and their chances to win at Olympic Club. We continue with a guy who's only won a couple times in the last few years, but for some reason is drawing everyone's interest.
His 2012 so far: Astonishing for anyone else, erratic for Woods. He's won the Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Classic, but he missed the cut at the Wells Fargo and hasn't seemed on his game in several other events. Were this any other golfer, we'd be saying that he's having a career year (tied for most events won on Tour, third in FedEx points). For Woods? It's an afterthought.
His record at the U.S. Open: Ungodly. He has three wins, including his demolition of the field (and par) in 2000 and his defining (and, until now, most recent major) win at Torrey Pines in 2008. Overall, he's also got two second-place finishes and three other top-10s. He's only missed one cut in 16 Opens, and he didn't play last year because of injury.
Why he could win: Because he's Tiger Woods, and because this is the U.S. Open, and because he still has it in him somewhere to rise to the occasion. In more factual and statistically provable terms, Tiger is playing right now as well as he has since The Hydrant Incident. He ranks first in Total Driving, 7th in Greens in Regulation, and 3rd in Scoring Average. In other words, he's playing a lot better than you think he is right now.
Why he could fall short: Tee to green, he's one of the best out there. But he's lost the touch on the greens that used to define his game. Used to be that everything inside 15 feet was a gimme; now it's maybe inside three feet. On a broader scale, Woods is still susceptible to the One Bad Round virus that's hit him every major so far. Olympic doesn't care that he's Tiger Woods; Olympic will chew him up just like the fourth alternate.
Our take: He's going to make it interesting enough that Sunday will be a lot of fun to watch, but we're still not convinced of the stability of Tiger's putter. Until he proves that he can regain, and retain, that flat-stick mastery, he'll be in more tournaments, but closing out fewer of them.
And you? How do you think Tiger Woods will perform this week?