Through 36 holes on Friday, Tiger Woods was where he wants to be at the PGA Championship
at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course
: sharing the lead at 4-under par. With Woods saying his game is functioning on all cylinders, this week could be his best chance to end his winless streak in major championships that dates to his U.S. Open title in 2008.
With four PGA Championship titles (1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007) among his 14 majors, Woods is anxious to end that dry spell and resume his assault on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles. And he likes his chances this week, for the simple reason that he likes The Ocean Course and its designer, Pete Dye.
Though Woods finished a so-so tie for 28th at the 2010 PGA, played on Dye’s Whistling Straits course, he says the architect’s sometimes controversial style suits his tastes, especially the challenges of wind, sand, marsh and daunting greens. Earlier this week, Woods – who played practice rounds a week before starting 69-71 this week – discussed his take on The Ocean Course and how the rain-soaked layout is playing.
“The fairways are perfect, greens are perfect. It’s just going to be just a touch on the long side (a major-record 7,676 yards) because (the ball) is just not rolling out. But all that being said, the greens are still pretty receptive, which is nice, and it’s just going to be … if the PGA decides to play it all the way back, it’s just going to be a big ballpark.
“Of anything that’s close (to The Ocean Course as far as previous major venues) would be Whistling Straits, same architect being Pete. But (the courses) play totally differently. (The Ocean Course has) a lot of mounding and a lot of movement in its designs. One of the things you learn about Pete’s golf courses, a lot of it is visual. There’s a lot more room out there, whether it’s on the fairways or on the greens, than you think. He just makes you look the other way, and he’s a masterful designer in that way.
“And he always likes to present a lot of the targets at angles … if you’re aggressive, it can play very short, and if you’re hitting it well off the tees, the golf courses that he designs are not very long if you’re able to be aggressive off the tees. But if you play conservative, he gives you a lot more room, but also you’re far away from the green all the time. He’s a wonderful designer ...
“He makes you think, which I like, instead of just going out there and hitting a golf ball. He makes you make a decision off the tees, he makes you make a decision into the greens and makes you leave the ball in the correct spot. The thing about Pete is, if you miss your spots, you’re going to get penalized severely, and I think that’s more so than any other course designer. But he gives you a lot of room.
“Probably the only place that isn’t like that is (TPC) Sawgrass (in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home of the Players Championship). But it originally wasn’t like how it is now. It was tight but there was no rough, so everyone ran into the palmetto bushes; that was your rough. … Overall, the golf courses that I’ve played that are Pete’s, I do like them, just because of the fact that you have to think. You can’t just go up there and just swing away and hit it and go find it. You’ve got to really think about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. … I like what this golf course has, and it’s just a wonderful piece of property.”
Asked to sum up his strategy for the week, Woods offered this:
“Pete will give you a couple of easy holes, and then he’ll just hammer you with a few hard ones. Then he’ll give you a break, and it’s kind of the ebb and flow of most of Pete’s designs. (The PGA setup crews) moved up a couple of tees on par-3s … they could play a lot, lot further back than they are. And a couple of them are pretty long … (No.) 14 was 245 or 250 (yards) from the back tee to the back left pin. That’s a pretty stout hole.
“But the par-5s, if you drive the ball well, you can probably get to three of the four (in two shots), if not four of the four. This is a golf course where it’s going to test our short games a lot. The guy who can chip and putt really well this week is going to have a great chance.”
So far, Tiger looks as if he could be in that category. A good place to regain his footing in his pursuit of Nicklaus, perhaps? Stayed tuned on Sunday.