TULSA, Okla. - Call it Tiger Woods' last chance. For this year, anyway.
Any other mortal might not look at it that way, but Woods, the planet's dominant golfer, doesn't like to go a whole year on the PGA Tour without a major.
Hot and steamy Southern Hills and the PGA Championship, teeing off Thursday, is Woods' last chance to rack up another notch in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 big ones.
"My season has been pretty good, but not great," he told the media Wednesday. "I haven't won a major, and the majors are valued that highly. I've come close, but I just haven't gotten it done yet."
Indeed, he finished second at both The Masters and U.S. Open, before sliding to 12th at the British Open.
He did win four tournaments this year, and sits atop most of those lists that gauge a season's success, like money earnings and Fed Ex Cup standings. But, without a major, Woods admits he will be disappointed.
The best player in the world always plays better when he wants to make a point, and he's been shut out of a major win only three years in his career. He's won two majors each of the last four years.
Also, he's playing very well, coming off a romp last week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, in which he was very Tiger-like in putting the clamps Sunday on the rest of the field.
Still, the layout at Southern Hills, the first course to host this tournament four times, doesn't exactly play to Woods' strengths.
It's full of twists and turns, with tree-lined fairways and a ton of doglegs. If there is one weakness in Woods' game, it's his driver, which can at best be described as occasionally wayward.
No matter. Woods has said he will probably keep the driver safely stowed away, much as he did when he won the British Open last year.
The other bad news for Woods is that his history at Southern Hills has been distinctly un-Tiger like. Nor does he traditionally do well on par-70 courses, which is the case at Southern Hills. The course only has two par-5s, which Woods usually abuses with his power game.
So the marquee grouping on Thursday and Friday, which traditionally features
the year's major winners, won't have the crowd-drawing value tournament officials and fans were hoping for.
It includes Zach Johnson, surprise winner of The Masters, Angel Cabrera, who won the U.S. Open and Padraig Harrington, who survived Carnoustie to win the British Open.
Weather will be a big factor here, as it often is at the PGA Championship, played in the heart of sizzling summers.
Remember 1994 at Oakmont when Colin Montgomerie had to be helped off the course after a practice round.
"It was the hottest I've ever been on a golf course," Montgomerie said. "And that includes the Far East."
Temperatures are expected to top 100 and the heat index could beat 110. Those players in shape will probably have a big advantage, in contrast to the big, sweaty guys.
"Dealing with the heat is going to be of the utmost importance," Johnson told the media.
The good news is the golf ball travels farther in the heat; Woods says he's hitting it a half-club to a full club more in practice rounds.
Another possible contender, Jim Furyk, may play after all. Furyk, battling back problems, was still listed on the tournament leaderboard as of Wednesday.
August 8, 2007
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
... full article »