U.S. Open 2019: 7 reasons why Tiger Woods will win (and 3 why he won’t)
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Tiger Woods is back. He’s got another green jacket in the closet (15-time major-winner, will never get tired of writing that), and he’s coming back to the site of his total annihilation over the rest of the field in 2000. Can he do it again at the 2019 U.S. Open? Yes, and here’s why.
1. He’s older and wiser
What I like most about this iteration of Tiger Woods is that he’s finally seemed to accept that he will never be the same player he was. That free-wheeling golf swing and man-handling power isn’t coming back, and he’s spoken openly about how his back can’t handle practicing as much as he used to. But that’s ok! As long as he accepts that he can protect against it. Tiger’s best quality has always been his mind, and thinking his way around the course is how he won the Masters.
2. He’s still got the fear factor
But even though Tiger may not have the same physical tools, he does have the distinct advantage of striking fear into the hearts of his opponents like the old days. A lot of the players he’s competing against grew up idolizing him. It’s intimidating to play against him — especially when the crowd gets behind him, as it always does — and we’ve seen players back down in the face of it. Take Rory in the final group at the Tour Championship, or Francesco Molinari at the Masters
3. He knows how to win on Pebble
Need we say more? Tiger’s won twice at Pebble, including an astonishing 15-shots win at the 2000 U.S. Open. There’s no substitute for that kind of experience, and better yet: Tiger tends to win multiple times on courses he likes.
4. He’s playing great
Forget course form for a moment; Tiger’s recent form is good enough alone. He’s clocked a top 10 in half his starts so far this season, only missed one cut, and had a win, a T-5 and a T-9 in three of his last four starts.
5. His iron game is on-point
Tiger finished 3rd last year in Strokes Gained: Approach and is 13th so far this year, which is especially impressive considering Tiger’s driving doesn’t always leave him in the best spots. With Pebble sporting so many tiny greens, a good iron player is going to win this week.
6. He’s getting overlooked
Ok, yes, Tiger never really gets overlooked. But the narrative isn’t one that ‘Tiger will win.’ Fans are talking about how well Rory’s playing. They’re talking about DJ. They’re talking about Brooks winning back-to-back-to-back. They’re excited about Spieth. Tiger factors into all this, of course, but he’s not under the same amount of pressure compared to just a few years ago, when people expected him to win.
7. He understands his golf swing
And finally, the thing I love about the new Tiger isn’t just how he accepts his limitations, but that he has such a deep understanding of his own golf swing. He’s not relying on a coach like in the past; he knows his body, and he knows his swing. He “found something” at the Masters, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
But as much as we’re all rooting for Tiger, we have to be fair about this. Winning the U.S. Open is very difficult. And there are a few reasons why the people who don’t think he’ll win may be right…
His back is unreliable
This is something Tiger seems to talk more about himself than everybody else, which is equally surprising and interesting. But the truth is, Tiger’s back is unreliable. Sometimes, he wakes up feeling stiff and he’s less likely to play well. Other times, it feels great and he’s good to go. He takes it day-by-day, and there’s no telling when it may be working for him, or against him.
His recent U.S. Open record is sketchy
Yes, his U.S. Open record has been plagued by injuries in recent years. But even still, DNP-T21-T32-DNP-MC-DNP-DNP-MC doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Once the juices get pumping at a U.S. Open, it could take some time for him to adapt.
The leaderboard is stacked
There’s another reason Tiger isn’t getting as much hype as in the past: the strength of his challengers is ridiculous. Brooks, or Spieth, or DJ or Rory. There are so many players playing well right now, Tiger could play well and not win, simply because he ran into one too many good players.