Tiger Woods is easily the most accomplished ballstriker in golf these days. There are no conditions that he can’t adjust to with his arsenal of shots. Witness his wins at Royal Liverpool or Southern Hills, triumphs of strategy as much as ballstriking prowess.
So it is rare for Tiger to complain about a golf course’s setup, with the exception of slow or bumpy greens, which he hates with a passion. That made his post-round comments Saturday after The Barclays a little out of the ordinary. Woods is five shots back, tied for seventh, going into the final round at Liberty National.
After he posted a four-under-par 67, Woods exhibited what could only be classified as disdain at the setup. Woods said the field was “playing the ladies’ tees most of the day” and complained, “It’s just unbelievable how short the golf course is playing. The tees are way up. I mean, geez, they are so far up there.”
Woods said he thought the tees would be back at the tips because the tour was using lift, clean and place rules due to wet conditions and a forecast of additional rain Saturday (that luckily never came, by the way). Steve Marino, who shares the lead with Paul Goydos, disagreed, saying he thought the course played plenty long.
What might be behind Tiger’s mild rant? Simply that he wanted more of a challenge? More likely, he’s looking for a competitive edge going into the final round.
Check out the leaderboard. It is composed mostly of short hitters. If tournament officials respond to Tiger’s criticism and move the tees back for Sunday’s final round, it will benefit one contender — Tiger. Though Woods is only 25th in the tour’s distance stats, he has the power to hit it with the big sluggers on tour. His stats tend to suffer because he often opts for 3-wood or 5-wood off the tee.
Goydos ranks 189th in driving distance, about 20 yards shorter than Woods. The other players ahead of Woods on the board and their driving distance ranks: Marino, 40th; Fredrik Jacobson, 131st; Webb Simpson, 102nd; Steve Stricker, 118th; Heath Slocum, 103rd. One of the players Woods is tied with is former Masters champ Zach Johnson, who ranks 157th.
If Liberty National is stretched out to its maximum length — something a little over 7,400 yards — it would affect the short knockers on the leaderboard, which is everyone except Marino and Tiger.
So was Woods really concerned that Liberty National played too easy? Or was he looking to gain an edge going into the final round? You make the call.