Sports Outside the Beltway

Tiger Woods Dominates the British Open

Tiger Woods is known for his dominance of the Masters but AP golf writer Doug Ferguson thinks the British Open actually best showcases his unique combination of skills.

Tiger Woods Dominates the British Open Tiger Woods kisses the trophy after winning the British Open golf championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, in this July 17, 2005 file photo. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant) Tiger Woods never posted any of Harry Vardon’s feats on his bedroom door. His career has always been about Jack Nicklaus and that benchmark of 18 professional majors, and Woods has made incredible strides in his first decade on the PGA Tour. He captured the career Grand Slam at age 24, two years sooner than Nicklaus. He won back-to-back titles at the Masters, and one-third of his majors have come from Augusta National, just like Jack.

But along with a closet full of green jackets, Woods is starting to assemble quite a collection of claret jugs. He heads to Carnoustie for the 136th British Open with a chance to become the first player since Peter Thomson in 1954-56 to win golf’s oldest championship three straight times. If he’s successful, that would give him as many jugs as jackets.

Nicklaus and Vardon share the record for most titles (6) in a single major. For all the fixation over Woods and Augusta National, his presence at the British Open has become equally daunting. Could he reach Vardon’s record at the British Open before Nicklaus’ mark at the Masters? Is it possible his dominance lies more on the linksland than amid the azaleas? “I will say this: The British Open Championship is my favorite major,” Woods said. “I just love the history, tradition and atmosphere. You need patience and imagination to play well.”

Thomson has watched Woods develop a game suited for links golf and wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he goes on a dominant run. “He’ll have a run for 10 or 15 years during which he’ll win at least half of them, maybe a few more,” Thomson said from his home in St. Andrews. “I’m assuming he goes about it in the way he does now. There’s never been any golfer, maybe even a tennis player, who applied himself in such a way that Tiger has.”

Nick Faldo, who won the Masters and British Open three times each, helped Woods into his first green jacket in 1997 and always figured that would be his domain. Now, he’s not so sure. “That’s a tough one,” Faldo said. “You’ve got to believe that everything about him is set up perfectly for Augusta. But he has this great ability now to adapt, as he did at Hoylake, where strategy golf came in.”

Augusta National has added nearly 500 yards since Woods won his first green jacket by a record 12 shots. And with improved technology, from drivers to shafts to golf balls, Woods no longer has exclusive rights to power.

The British Open has always been more about brains than brawn, the often overlooked strength of the world’s No. 1 player. After twice winning at St. Andrews by either hitting it over or around the bunkers, Woods arrived at Royal Liverpool last year to find the grass brown and crusty, the fairways running faster than some greens. After a few practice rounds, he decided his best option was to leave driver in the bag and navigate his way around the course with his irons. It proved to be a brilliant strategy, and he went on to a two-stroke victory.

“The majority of golfers really don’t relish playing a course like Carnoustie, Hoylake, Lytham & St. Annes,” Thomson said. “They’re not comfortable playing that kind of golf. Tiger is. I remember seeing him play at Lytham as an amateur, and he didn’t look like he belonged there. It was a complete mystery to him. But it didn’t take him long to get the hang of it. He’s such a brain, and he has studied it very well. That’s what the Open championship courses demand.”

Regardless, Woods is an amazing golfer who can dominate any course.

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