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Punch Shot: Will Woods be ready for British Open?

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Although Tiger Woods' first start since back surgery ended with a missed cut at Congressional, some saw it as a step in the right direction. GolfChannel.com writers debate whether or not he'll be ready to resume his major quest in three weeks at Hoylake.

By JASON SOBEL

Yes, of course Tiger Woods is going to be ready for the Open Championship in three weeks – even with a scheduled vacation thrown in beforehand.

This latest debate is like the ugly stepchild of one that’s been argued for years. Anytime Tiger – or Phil or Rory or any other world-class player who gears his game toward four weeks each year – doesn’t “peak” prior to a major championship, there are questions as to why and how and it hasn’t happened. When in reality, they’ve done exactly what they’ve set out to do: Build some continuing momentum, without playing their best golf on a non-major week.

Same thing here. Tiger made what was essentially a rehab start at Congressional last week. He admitted he was rusty and admitted he probably wouldn’t have his best stuff. And he didn’t. So now the narrative is that he somehow failed to prepare properly for the upcoming major?

Nope, I’m not buying it. If anything, his missed cut should still be viewed as successful, because he accomplished his main goal. He played a few rounds of competitive golf and felt fine afterward. That’s a win, even if it didn’t come with a trophy.

Three weeks from now, a win will only come if, well, he wins. That might not happen, of course, but it won’t be because he doesn’t have his game ready for Hoylake.


By RYAN LAVNER

This obviously violates Rule Nos. 1, 2 and 3 when it comes to Tiger Woods – never underestimate him – but it’s difficult to express any sort of optimism that the former world No. 1 will be a contender in three weeks’ time.

Since March 31 back surgery, Woods said that for months all he was able to do was chip and putt. It sure didn’t look like it at Congressional, where he got up and down just three times in 16 chances. Worse, he blamed the type of grass – rye, not the Bermuda he has in his backyard – for his poor performance around the greens. Perhaps he should have spent a few more minutes at the chipping area, rather than going straight from the range to the tee.

Even at significantly less than 100 percent, Woods was still able to average 300 yards a pop in his rehab start, but he was characteristically erratic with the big stick (57 percent). At Congressional, that meant slashing out of thick rough. At Hoylake, that’ll mean taking a machete to knee-high rough.

Though Woods has made a career out of proving people wrong, this back issue has already been different than previous injuries. The Open likely will be just another step in a long journey back.


By WILL GRAY

While I realize that Tiger is not Phil, and Phil is not Tiger … haven’t we just been through this exercise? Didn’t we spend the better part of the spring trying to figure out when Mickelson would get it in gear for the U.S. Open, only to watch him ultimately not factor at Pinehurst?

Tiger is still a great player when at his best, but he’s far from that right now and likely won’t find the answer in a fortnight. When he won at Hoylake in 2006, he was in complete control of his game from tee to green. Just days ago, he was a man beaten up by a difficult golf course, one whose swing appeared rusty and whose short game was nowhere to be seen.

Tiger still has time to salvage this season, and the two-week stretch of Firestone and Valhalla next month certainly holds promise. But any expectation that he will contend or even win at Hoylake is optimistic at best.


By REX HOGGARD

There was little to be gleaned from Tiger Woods’ short work week at the Quicken Loans National that would suggest the former world No. 1 will be game ready when he tees it up next at the Open Championship.

He missed fairways (16 of 28), he missed greens (20 of 36) and he missed every putt that mattered (61 putts for two rounds).

But those who would contend that Woods’ 36-hole rehab start at Congressional is a sign of things to come at Royal Liverpool haven’t been paying attention.

With a limited window to recover from back surgery on March 31, Woods returned four weeks earlier than he expected and was pleased, not with his game but with his health.

There were no spasms or soreness after two hot days in the nation’s capital and now he has two weeks to work on the things that failed him at the Quicken Loans National, particularly his short game.

For a healthy Woods, two weeks is an eternity. It’s how he used to prepare for majors when he was winning them at an alarming clip, and it’s why he can right the ship before shipping out to Hoylake.