ESPN debate about Tiger dumping his driver in majors is silly
In case you live in the center of a giant gorse bush and missed it, Tiger Woods triumphed in The Open (a.k.a. The British Open). And in the course of this victory, he hit his driver exactly once, choosing instead to use a lot of 2-irons and 3-woods to keep his ball in play off the tee.
Today I have heard ESPN analysts debate ad nauseum about whether Tiger will keep the headcover on his driver at ALL future majors, because it worked so well at The Open. Some say yes, some say no.
Quite frankly, the ones who say “Yes” are flat out wrong, especially when it comes to the upcoming PGA Championship.
Royal Liverpool was not all that long at 7,258 yards, especially considering that the hard, fast fairways provided dozens of yards of roll for low, boring tee shots of the sort produced by Tiger’s famous “stinger” shots hit with irons and fairway woods. As the best long-iron player on the Tour (and arguably second only to Nicklaus in history), Tiger’s approaches with longer clubs gave him an advantage over the field, even without a yardage advantage.
(By the way, Tiger averaged about 291 yards off the tee, even without hitting his driver – not bad – but roll accounted for a good bit of that length. Of course, this stat is taken only from drives in the fairways – some others who were bombing it every hole were playing from closer in, but playing from the rough.)
Those hard, fast fairways caused tee shots hit with drivers to run out of and through fairways, even if they landed in them to begin with. You simply have less control with driver than with more lofted clubs. And you have less control over roll on links courses, where vagaries introduced by humps and bumps, swales and hillocks cannot be accounted for or predicted.
The fairway bunkers in links golf, including those at Royal Liverpool, are really hazards. They are deep, and often their pot-bunker nature serve to restrict the swings of golfers unfortunate enough to find themselves near the riveted sides.
In short, links courses are well-suited for a more controlled, lower-to-the-ground game.
The 88th PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club is being played on a completely different sort of course. Even in the dog-days of summer, the fairways – though firm – will not play like linksland fairways. They don’t have the undulation, either.
The fairway bunkers at Medinah – though often deep – are large and generally escapable for all but the most unlucky. In fact, holes #4, 9, 11, 12, 14, and 16 either have no fairway bunkers at all or have bunkers that are basically out of play. Not nearly the penalty here as at Royal Liverpool. Have we all forgotten Tiger’s bunker shot at Pebble Beach a few years back? Tiger’s not scared of toothless U.S. fairway bunkers.
Medinah is going to be the longest course in major history, at 7,561 yards, including some long par 5s (the longest, the 12th, will play 605 yards). If Tiger wants to eagle any of these, he’ll need either some spectacular 3-woods, or a few well-struck drivers.
Medinah does have plenty of trees, though, and I suspect that Tiger will indeed opt for something other than driver on a few holes to keep the ball in play. However, on several others, he’ll want his driver to go over and beyond the trees. Again, this was not a concern at treeless Royal Liverpool
So Tiger’s a long way from taking the driver out of his bag, as some of those ESPN guys appear to predict him to do. I’m guessing they’ve never played a links course and simply don’t realize that different courses – even major venues – call for different strategies.
|« Golfers eat hotdogs and fight ALS||Radar Golf promises the Holy Grail for hackers: No more lost golf balls »|
Links golf is different from the groomed, treed, water hazard filled courses in North America. Tiger did what he needed to do to win the Open. That's what it's about--winning, isn't it? Sometimes it's pretty and sometimes it's not, but whose name is on the trophies.
Some have said (including Gary Player, that it was boring, not entertaining enough, and that Tiger may be known as a "short hitter" if he uses the same strategies in every major--how absurd is that?)
He already knows what he's going to do at Medina. He'll do whatever it takes to win and his competition should do the same, then the entertainment value will be elevated.