Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at @shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we look at Tiger Woods' chances this week at the British Open.
Bacon: It's British Open week, and for the first time in 2014, Tiger Woods is in the field at a major championship. Considering the injury, the time away from competitive golf and his 74-75 missed cut at the Quicken Loans National event, his only start before the Open, is he seriously a contender here or is this just prep work for Valhalla?
Busbee: You and I hit the local muni to work out the kinks in our game. Woods gets to loosen up at the world's greatest courses. And make no mistake, that's all he's doing here, getting loose. Were this a familiar locale like Augusta, I'd feel a lot better about his chances to make a decent showing — not a win, let's not get crazy — but Hoylake will demand the kind of precision approaches and delicate putting touches that only come from repeated practice. Yes, Woods won here, but 2006 was a generation ago. Was Jordan Spieth even out of middle school then?
Bacon: The thing that is such a bummer about all of this is that Hoylake is the course that Tiger Woods should be winning on. I know '06 was another lifetime for the golf game of Tiger, but he can still think his way around a place like he did back then, an obvious advantage over a lot of the field. But, as you say, winning this golf tournament with this amount of preparation just isn't realistic.
I thought Woods would want to return for this British Open because of the golf course, and while he will be back, I think making the cut is a better goal. Do you think he will make the weekend on a difficult course with high rough and nasty bunkers?
Busbee: Consider his own assessment of his performance at the Quicken Loans National: good driving, poor chipping and putting. Does that sound like a quality recipe for an Open Championship? The problem with Woods now is that he'll only have success if every aspect of his game is at its best-case-scenario level.
I'm going to go out on a rickety limb and say he will make the cut, but won't do anything spectacular. Same question back at you, and let's add in this component: what if weather becomes an issue? Do you think that could actually help Woods by bringing the rest of the field back to him?
Bacon: I don't really see any factor getting in the way of Tiger Woods that isn't Tiger Woods. The guy's game is going to be rusty as we saw at Congressional, and it will, as it always does, come down to his short game if he wants to put up competitive scores.
His chipping and putting at the Quicken Loans was horrendous, so if he can somehow get that clicking, I definitely think he has a shot at the weekend, but nothing more than that. If Tiger misses a second straight cut after this surgery, should we freak out as most people will, or just give the man a little bit of time to actually play a few tournaments before giving him a real grade on his return?
Busbee: I'm already freaked! This is a disaster! Nah, considering how long others with this surgery have taken to recover, and how long Woods could (should?) have stayed outside the ropes, I give him a mulligan for the entire 2014 majors season.
It'll be fun to see him back. Whether we see him on the weekend is another story.
Now your turn ... do you think Tiger will compete this week at Hoylake or does he need more time to get back to being fully competitive?