So instead of saying he wont win, lets just say that a victory at the British Open is a little less likely than, say, your average everyday Memorial.
The reason? He has been a non-factor in his last three events. He finished tied for 12th in the first, the U.S. Open. He went to the Buick and finished in a tie for 16th. And then he tied for 20th in the Advil Western. Does that sound like someone you would pick to go to Royal Lytham and win?
Well, no. He has just about made heretics out of those who saw 10-win season after 10-win season piling upon each other. Tiger himself never hinted that such was his destiny, even though Tigers father would have you believe that. But then, I guess my father would get a bit carried away by me if I possessed such awesome ability. So you must forgive Mister Woods the Senior. Hes understandably a proud pappa.
Woods, it appears, is not immortal. Hes just very, very good. He really can lose occasionally. On paper at least, this week would seem to be one such time. On paper a win seems unlikely. In reality, its quite possible that the unlikely will happen. You really look stupid if you pick someone else and then Eldrick wins ' who else do you choose but a man who has won four times already on the U.S. tour, including Bay Hill, the Players Championship, the Masters and the Memorial? And he won in Europe at the Deutsche Bank Open to give him five wins in six tries.
But if not Tiger, then who? Well, it looks like a European, perhaps Sergio Garcia, perhaps Darren Clarke or Thomas Bjorn. Perhaps it will be South African Retief Goosen, the unlikely U.S. Open winner. Perhaps an American will win ' is this old-timer Scott Hochs turn? Perhaps Phil Mickelsen?
Lytham will not be overpowered as Woods did at St. Andrews at last years British. However, Woods has won at finesse courses - quite often, in fact. But it makes it a little more difficult when you absolutely, positively must keep it in the fairway. Lytham has had a great deal of rain this year and the rough is, well, lush.
No one is hitting it as far off the tee or as straight as Garcia. Hes been avoiding the roughs quite well of late. The only question is if he has had the experience to win a major. If he learned anything at the U.S. Open where he was in position to win the final day, then the questions are moot.
Woods is more likely to win than Clarke or Bjorn, but Clarke won the Smurfit European Open two weeks ago and Bjorn has played well all year. Neither would be a great surprise if they won. And neither would Goosen, who won again last week after capturing the U.S. Open in a playoff.
Which brings us to Mickelson and Hoch. If this course were in America, Hoch would certainly be one of the favorites. Its just what the golfing gods ordered, tailor-made for a short, straight, accurate hitter, and Hoch has been such a hot golfer the last month or so.
Unfortunately, Royal Lytham and St. Annes is not in America. Hoch has only played the British three times in the 90s. He thinks there are much better things to do than travel 3,000 miles for one week of golf. But the first round this week is crucial for him. If he has a couple of bad holes, forget it. If the weather is cold and rainy, forget it. But if he scores well in the first round and becomes convinced he can play over there for one week ' watch out!
Mickelson? Who can tell? He will figure somewhere on the final day for the championship. He has everything it takes to win. But he also has the one thing it takes to lose ' a putter than misfires on short putts at the most crucial of times. As such, he is so difficult to predict. Is this Phils week? Or the week of Phils evil twin who blows the short ones?
Its likely on a course as difficult as Lytham that the eventual winner will be someone who hasnt been named. Another European, perhaps, one whom no one ever thought of as major championship material? Possibly.
Of course, theres our old buddy Tiger. Hes been in the country a week already. Hes proven he can win in Europe ' several times, in fact. And hes proven he can jump up from a string of mediocre play and win ' several times, in fact.
Its just not so certain that this is the time.
Who do you like for the British Open, and Why?