The Open 2019: Tiger Woods says his game isn’t ready for Portrush yet

July 16, 2019

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Wednesday before the 2019 Masters, Tiger Woods said his game was right where it needed to be to win. Tuesday of the 2019 Open Championship, he was less certain.

“It’s not quite as sharp as I’d like to have it right now,” Woods said at his pre-tournament press conference Tuesday. But he also emphasized that because it is Tuesday and there’s still time to get there. “Today it was a good range session. I need another one tomorrow. And hopefully that will be enough to be ready.”

Woods’ Tuesday began with a warmup session at the range before heading to the first tee just before 8 a.m. There, he joined the trio of New Zealander Ryan Fox and Aussies Jake McLeod and Dimitrious Papadatos. But the unlikely foursome was too good to be true and lasted just one hole; Woods split off after the first green and headed for the nearby 13th tee.

The rest of his brisk morning round was spent scouting Royal Portrush’s finishing stretch — and trying to dial in his ball flight. He was joined by the ever-present Rob McNamara, plus performance coach Matt Killen, who works full-time with Justin Thomas but has consulted on Woods’ game in recent months.

Matt Killen takes a photo of Tiger Woods' putting stroke at Portrush on Tuesday.
Getty Images

It was clear from Woods’ practice that he’s focused on working the ball with different shot shapes and ball flights. He expressed some frustrations after a series of middling mid-irons throughout his practice round, but drove it well and put a clever short game on full display.

“My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it,” he said. “I still need to get the ball — the shape of the golf ball a little bit better than I am right now, especially with the weather coming in and the winds are going to be changing. I’m going to have to be able to cut the ball, draw the ball, hit at different heights and move it all around.”

Woods finished his morning seven-hole session before the crowds had found him, playing the 18th hole in front of an empty grandstand. Then he headed to the driving range, where he, Killen and McNamara continued to work until his press conference. There, Woods expressed an appreciation for links golf and the unique tests it presents — and explained why he has spent so much time tinkering with shots around the greens.

“The difference between this layout versus most of the Open rota layouts is that the ball seems to repel around the greens a lot,” he said. “You’re going to have a lot of either bump-and-run chips, chips, or quite a bit of slow putts coming up the hills.”

Hearing Woods talk links golf and watching him experiment around a course like Portrush serves as a reminder why he’s had such success at the Open Championship in the past—he’s open to adapting his game.

“There is an art to playing links golf. It’s not, okay, I have 152 yards, bring out the automatic 9-iron and hit it 152. Here, 152 could be a little bump-and-run pitching wedge. It could be a chip 6-iron. It could be a lot of different things. So the more I’ve played over here and played under different conditions, being able to shape the golf ball both ways and really control trajectory, it allows you to control the ball on the ground.”

He sounded excited for the challenge, which is a good thing; ready or not, the Open is coming.

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