GULLANE, Scotland — British Open champions at Muirfield are more likely to be found on a ballot for the Hall of Fame than the bottom of a betting sheet. It has never been known as a haven for long shots, which would seem to bode well for someone like Tiger Woods.
Even so, Woods struggled to find the right definition of an “outsider” when asked Tuesday about the trend of high-caliber winners at Muirfield. Because if an “outsider” is someone who had never won a major, then all bets are off.
“You probably can't say that given the fact that over the past, what, five years or so … that we've had first-time winners at virtually every single major,” Woods said. “The fields are so deep now and the margin between the first player and the last player in the field is not that big anymore. It's very small.”
Eighteen players have won the past 20 majors, the most diverse collection of major champions in some 25 years. Fourteen of them had never won a major.
Perhaps it was more than just a coincidence when Woods dated this trend to the last five years.
Because that's when he stopped winning them.
“There's certainly a connection between so many different winners and Tiger not winning one,” Graeme McDowell said. “Because we all know when he gets in the mood, he likes to win a few.”
The drought is at 16 majors, stretched over five years, since Woods hobbled and winced his way to a playoff win at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th career major, leaving him four short of the standard set by Jack Nicklaus.
Woods gets defensive when asked about his confidence. But there are no answers for why he can win just about anywhere except in the majors.
“I think it's just a shot here and there,” he said. “It's making a key up-and-down here, or getting a good bounce, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there.”
WHEN: Thursday to Sunday
WHERE: Muirfield Golf Club, Gullane, Scotland
COURSE: 7,192 yards, par 71
TV: ESPN (Thursday-Friday, 1 a.m.-3 p.m., 4-7 p.m.; Saturday, 4 a.m.-11:30 a.m.; Sunday, 3 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) and ABC (Saturday-Sunday, noon-3 p.m.)