What can we expect from Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open?

Jay Busbee

Tiger Woods tees off on Thursday at 1:47 p.m. Eastern to begin his latest run at a U.S. Open title, 10 years after he won his last one. In the video above, Yahoo Sports’ Evan Doherty and Jay Busbee give you the thumbnail version of Woods’ chances. But let’s dig a bit deeper here.

Where does Tiger stand coming into the U.S. Open?

Better than you’d expect, not as good as he’d like. He still doesn’t have a win yet in his return to Tour-level golf dating back to last December’s Hero World Challenge. In that time, he’s only missed one cut, and he’s also got three top 10s and two top 5s, including a T2 at the Valspar, as well as a T11 at the Players. His performance across the board has been so maddeningly inconsistent that it’s impossible to tell whether he’ll start hot and fade, or start rocky and right the ship just in time to make the weekend. Literally every possibility is on the table.

What’s keeping Tiger from winning tournaments?

Pick a stat and make your case. Woods ranks in the top five in strokes gained around the green, but 89th in strokes gained on the green and 123rd off the tee. He ranks 99th in greens in regulation percentage, but 10th overall in scoring average. What does that tell you? That his game is all over the map, from glorious to ghastly, often within the same hole. He’ll rip off a run of birdies and eagles, and then apparently forget which end of the club to hold off the tee. The inconsistency has doomed Woods time and again, and until he can be confident that every club in his bag will perform exactly as he expects it to, he’s going to be sweating cut lines and getting up early on weekends.

How has Tiger performed at Shinnecock Hills?

He tied for 17th in 2004, well back of the duel between Phil Mickelson and eventual winner Retief Goosen. And he withdrew with a wrist injury prior to the 1995 U.S. Open, but he was still an amateur then. Woods has historically played well at a few courses, like Augusta, Bay Hill, and Pebble Beach, and clearly Shinnecock isn’t in that rotation. But as a links-style course, this could reward strategy as much as skill … and Woods’ mind is as sharp as ever.

So can Tiger win the U.S. Open?

Can he? Sure. So can you, in theory. Will he? Almost surely not. Woods has too many problems that can go wrong with his game to even win an everyday tournament, to say nothing of a full-field major on a course tricked up to conditions just this side of ferocious. We’ll know pretty soon on Thursday afternoon how Woods will fare heading into the weekend; when he’s on track, he doesn’t waver, but when he’s flailing, he smashes through the guardrails early.

Our prediction? Woods makes the cut with a bit of room to spare but well behind the leaders, and then absolutely tears up the course on Sunday morning when the pressure’s off to play himself into a top-15 finish. That next major still awaits, but so too does the hope that it’ll come one day.

Tiger Woods is at the U.S. Open, but how much more does he have in the tank? (AP)
Tiger Woods is at the U.S. Open, but how much more does he have in the tank? (AP)

Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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