Tiger Woods should be familiar with the Olympic Club because he played it many times when he was going to Stanford and also competed in the 1998 U.S. Open there. Still, he told the media in a group interview Tuesday, he doesn’t know it at all because there are so many changes.
Such as? “They’ve changed all the greens, so none of my charts work. I’ll have to have a whole new book. We had balls that were landing on the green on 13 that were going in the hazard. There have been a couple of bunkers moved. And you never know where the pins will be.”
And, despite all that practice time when he was at Stanford, Tiger finished well back in 1998, in a tie for 18th. Two years later, with the Open at Pebble Beach, he dominated the field, winning by 15 strokes.
But when he was asked if there were any comparison between Pebble Beach and the Olympic Club, he said, “None at all. They’re two entirely different courses. The only similarity is that the ball doesn’t carry very well at either course.”
Tiger is coming off a tournament win, just as he did before the Masters, where his game completely collapsed. This time, after a win in the Memorial two weeks ago, he feels more confident. “I didn’t have any confidence in my ability to hit the ball high before the Masters,” he said. “I have much more confidence in my game now.”
The prevailing opinion is that Woods needs to win a major to really get his confidence back, but when he was asked about that — the only tough question of the session — he snarled at the questioner.
“I’m always going to be asked about that until I win 18 [majors]. Then, it’ll be, how long until 19? It’s always something with you guys. I’ve dealt with that my entire career, ever since I was an amateur and playing all the way through and to professional golf, it hasn’t changed.”
That childish tantrum aside, Tiger talked specifically and generally about the problems of winning an Open, and the problems with the Olympic Club course.
“I think the Open is definitely the biggest challenge we face,” he said, “because it’s played on a different course each year. At Augusta National [for the Masters], it’s the same course every year so you know what you have to do. But for the Open, you have to prepare for a totally different course each year.”
The Olympic Club is also a different style from most Open courses, with the toughest holes at the beginning, the easiest at the end.
Asked what he thought a good score would be for the first six holes, Woods said, “If I can shoot even par for those holes, I’m going to pick up a bunch of strokes on other guys.”
At the end? “Usually in an Open, we’re just hanging on, hoping for pars at the end,” he said. “But these holes, if you get a good drive and hit a good wedge to the green, you’ve got a real birdie opportunity.”
And that may be his one chance to win.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.