Woods gives blueprint for success at British Open

By Frank Malley Special to PA SportsTicker

HOYLAKE, England (Ticker) - When the emotions were safely packed away along with the old Claret Jug, Tiger Woods gave an insight into what makes a champion.

“I believe the way I play golf you turn the switch on the first hole and you have it on the entire time,” Woods said. “And you don’t try harder on each and every shot. You have the same effort level, give it everything on every shot.”

If ever there was a blueprint for sporting success it resides in that sentence. It is the code by which Roger Federer amasses tennis titles and West Indies cricket great Brian Lara scores runs and by which Jack Nicklaus won his 18 major championships.

It is doubtful whether any sportsman has plotted his way to a title more efficiently, so much so that Woods appeared to be fitted with satellite navigation as he negotiated the copious pot bunkers of Royal Liverpool with short and mainly long irons of precision.

He had a game plan in which he was confident and the mental fortitude not to deviate from it. By contrast you got the impression some of Britain’s golfers, such as Paul Casey and Luke Donald, turned up to swing at their home major with little more than hope.

It robbed the British Open of any real home involvement on the final day, with the unheralded Anthony Wall the top Brit and the rest deserving of the “abysmal” description bestowed on them by the BBC’s Peter Alliss.

Another Open which turned into a trial of Colin Montgomerie’s ability to win on the grandest stage. Once more Monty came up short, even missing the cut. At 43, Montgomerie believes he has five more years with a good chance of lifting that elusive major. With a new generation gathering and the big names in golf hungrier than ever it is surely a forlorn hope.

There was the courage of Darren Clarke and Chris DiMarco, the former devastated by his wife Heather’s battle against cancer and the latter striving to come to terms with the recent death of his mother while playing quite superbly in giving Woods his only threat down the stretch.

It put into sharp perspective the simmering feud between Woods and Nick Faldo which at one stage threatened to see them play together without talking or shaking hands. Happily, common sense prevailed and Faldo’s quip to Woods as they left the 18th green following the second round - “You might as well give your driver to my son Matthew because you don’t need it” - was more in keeping with an occasion renowned for its class and style.

Seve Ballesteros played decently. Not enough to make the cut, but well enough to show his teenage son Baldomero why he is revered as the greatest European golfer.

In many ways, however, the triumph of Hoylake was Hoylake itself. The organization was efficient, the weather wonderful, the course a delight. Not in the manner of brutal Scottish links like Carnoustie, but in the way it allowed intelligence to prosper.

Sport is all about variety. Even the most avid golf fan can get bored watching players toss in high wedges to island greens. Similarly, the way so many courses have been weighted in favor of huge hitters has skewed the art of the game.

The beauty of Hoylake was that it gave every golfer a choice. The big hitters could take a chance and fly the copious bunkers, a route recklessly followed in the final round by Sergio Garcia.

The alternative, employed by Woods, was to keep the driver on the shelf. It made the course a good deal longer than its 7,258 yards but long irons into undulating greens are among golf’s great delights.

Consequently it was an Open for the aficionado rather than the thrill-seeker.

Yet why it took 39 years for the R&A to bring the tournament back to Hoylake is a mystery. It is a thinking-professional’s gem, one guaranteed to produce a great champion. One who “gives it everything on every shot.”