Someone Finally Stopped Tiger
'Nice and sunny,' quipped Andrew Coltart in his distinctive baritone brogue, a steady rain pelting his cap. 'I just hope it doesn't rain tomorrow.'
A good soaking rendered Muirfield uncharacteristically soft, but dry weather is expected later in the week, though never, ever guaranteed off the Firth of Forth.
'It's probably the softest I've seen in an Open Championship with the fairways this lush,' said Tiger after his early morning practice round. 'But the rough is obviously up and you've got to keep it in play in order shoot some good numbers.'
Tiger teed off at 6:40 AM Tuesday with Mark O'Meara, John Cook and Adam Scott. A couple hundred fans followed quietly, in marked contrast to Tiger's boisterous, early week practice rounds at Bethpage Black.
'He looks a lot tighter swing-wise, a little more on his game than at the U.S. Open,' offered Cook in a sobering assessment for the rest of the field. But yet, Cook, who came so close to winning here in 1992, believes Tiger's challenge is far tougher than at Bethpage Black.
'This is a golf course on which the Nick Prices and the Mark O'Mearas and John Cooks can compete with the Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson,' said Cook.
Nearly every player we encountered echoed that sentiment as length is not a pre-requisite at Muirfield. 'The premium's on hitting the fairway,' added Rocco Mediate.
Funny, Monday morning delivered a humorous and positive omen for those seeking to stop Tiger. As he made his way to the range, a female security guard who didn't recognize Tiger blocked his path. A colleague stepped in to rectify the situation.
'She was following it by the books,' explained the most famous athlete in the world of the least interested golf fan on the planet. 'I didn't have the proper credentials.'
And what did Tiger say in response?
'I just said I won this tournament two years ago.' The episode should at least allay any security concerns.
Nick Faldo cracked that only a woman indeed could derail Tiger.
'Who is she? Where is she? And how much can we pay her?--not in that sense!--but we've got to wear him out somehow haven't we?' said the man who has won twice here.
Apparently, Faldo hasn't seen Elin Nordegren, Tiger's beautiful girlfriend. She is 0-2 in the 'wear him out for the majors' department.
Alas, it'll be up to the old gal named Muirfield to deal with Tiger. And so much of what will happen depends on the wind.
In the words of one Scottish caddie, if the wind does not blow they'll destroy it. It's simply too short by modern standards. But if, as is often the case, the wind comes from the west, it'll be a challenge. If it rolls in off the North Sea, it will be, according to author Curtis Gillespie, whose detailed account of Muirfield was just published in a new book, Playing Through, ugly and cold. And, he added with a diabolical laugh, 'fun.'
Ultimately, the prevailing sense is that if Tiger is going to win the third leg of the single-season slam, at least make him really sweat. Take a cue from the security guard, fans seem to be saying. Don't just let him walk on through.
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The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.