Why Tiger Woods could contend in U.S. Open at Chambers Bay

Chambers Bay course's wide fairways could be a huge benefit to Tiger Woods at U.S. Open

To the left of Tiger Woods stood the future: 15-year-old Cole Hammer, whose first U.S. Open memory was Woods' fist pump after that epic putt on No. 18 at Torrey Pines in 2008.

To the right of Woods on the practice range Tuesday stood his past: instructor Sean Foley, working with Matt Every.

Sipping an energy drink, and shedding a sweater when the sun finally peeked through at Chambers Bay, Woods elicited whistles from spectators after a few of his monstrous drives. Other efforts prompted Woods, now ranked 195th in the world, to slam his club in frustration.

Everyone observing the scene, perhaps even caddie Joe LaCava and swing consultant Chris Como, had to be wondering: Is he done?

Here's what we used to ask about Tiger: When will he get to 19 majors?

Then it was this:

Will he get to 19 majors?

Will he win another major?

Will he win anywhere?

And after he shot a career-worst 85 in the third round of the Memorial two weeks ago: Does he need a hug?

Woods doesn't want your sympathy, but Tuesday he did compare his plight to that of a pitcher getting shelled.

"The manager is not going to come out to the mound and bring in the righty or lefty," Woods said. "You've got to go through all nine innings. It's hard, but that's the nature of our sport. There's nobody to pull you up. There's no one to bail you out. Sometimes when you're running hot, there's no one to hold you back, either."

Woods, 39, is in the midst of another swing change, which he described as a "baseline shift" that requires a new "patterning" on his chip shots, if you can tolerate the lingo. He would not elaborate on what he and Como are trying to do, just as he kept mainly quiet on his work with previous coaches Foley, Hank Haney and Butch Harmon.

"Time hasn't robbed Tiger Woods of his game," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said. "He's done this to himself. He's traded his genius for the ideas of others."

As a longtime observer at the range put it Tuesday: "He doesn't need a new coach; he needs a father."

Earl Woods died in 2006, and Woods' descent into golf and tabloid hell began three years later. He is 0 for 21 in majors since that 2008 U.S. Open, not counting the six he missed because of injuries.

Fellow players are sympathetic to the man who made tour purses balloon. Jason Day played with Woods on Monday and called Woods' iron play "just ridiculous" — in a good way.

"The driver gets a little wide sometimes," Day added, "but if he can get on the fairway, he'd probably be back to where he was."

That brings us to reasons Woods, a three-time U.S. Open champ, actually can contend this week:

The 13th fairway is 115 yards wide, and others are also far more generous than on a typical U.S. Open course. And with the runways — OK, fairways — running hot, Woods can bench his balky driver.

He said links golf is his favorite, and Chambers Bay is certainly linksy. (It's not a true links because ground had to be moved to construct it, and the wind off Puget Sound is often tame.)

He played with Jordan Spieth on Tuesday and has consulted with another competitor from the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, Patrick Reed. "Patrick was telling me the funny part was playing No. 1, the first hole of match play, he made a solid nine and won the hole," Woods said with a smile.

Remember how he entered the Masters with an LOL-worthy short game? Vegas had him at 2-1 just to finish in the top 20. He tied for 17th. "What I did at Augusta," he said, "I'm very proud of that."

Bottom line, with the U.S. Open title at stake, Woods believes in himself.


"I've got three of these," he replied.


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