Tiger too wily to fall into new traps on Old Course - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Tiger too wily to fall into new traps on Old Course

Yet there were dark, forbidding shapes on the landscape - the billowing, black inflatable advertising boards erected by the main sponsors of Tiger Woods. The first was imprinted with the message "112 bunkers", the second "94 of them made more difficult" and, finally, a single word - "whatever".

Here was a reminder that when Woods was last in these acres for the Millennium Open, strange numbers occurred. The 29-year-old won the tournament by eight shots and with a 19-under-par total, breaking Nick Faldo's Open record. During the course of this stroll he did not once visit a bunker.

Woods allowed his sand wedge some employment yesterday during a practice round with his faithful friend Mark O'Meara. He started from the second hole at the cereal-drenching time of 7am in the sort of clement conditions which characterised the whole of the week the last time he was here for a major.

The gallery was even bigger than five years ago, when the legend was already locked into place. Not every presence in the throng got to see all of Tiger. Plenty of security personnel peering into the crowd evidenced that this was much more, especially in these times, than buddies goofing around in the sunshine.

We are now in the American's Tigger phase in the run-up to a tournament, a blithesome period to exercise the toothy smile and gambol through the obligatory press conferences. Soon enough, though, he will become the predator once again, and the rest of the field will collectively fear him, like the fold collecting the first whiff of Reynard.

The course shepherds have been at work, trying to protect the old links. Five new tees have added 164 yards to the equation, but it seems strange logic to combat the Woods power game by making the course longer. Indeed, it might play into the American's hands.

Tiger-proofing a golf course has proved to be the work of cowboys in the past. "I guess it all started out at Augusta," Woods said. "They weren't really too happy when I was hitting driver, wedge, into 15 twice. They weren't really thrilled by that. They made a few changes in that course and I guess that's when the terminology first started.

"If a guy hits the ball further he's going to have an advantage. On shorter holes he can maybe take a run at driving a green or two. Or other guys are hitting driver, you're hitting a one-iron or three-wood in a fairway, which is a little easier to hit."

But what of his bunker-free passage here last time, the equivalent of going blindfold through a cow field and coming out with clean shoes at the other end? It was, as Woods conceded, part instinct and also great good fortune. "Two factors in 2000," he said. "I hit it well and I got lucky a few times. I should have been in probably three or five bunkers. Just off the tee shots alone, it happened to hop over a bunker and catch a side and kick left or right of it. That happens.

"The golf course, it's kind of funny. You play along and you think, 'What is a bunker here for?' And, all of a sudden, the wind switches and you go, 'Oh, there it is." But what if the Old Course's biggest guard dog does not come out growling? What if the wind does not blow? Does the Old Course have any protection then? "It really doesn't," Woods said. "The greens are at a speed where you can be aggressive. It will be interesting to see how tough they'll put the pins, over the knobs or on the corners. That would be the only defence if the wind doesn't blow. Otherwise, the guys will shoot some numbers."

It would be unfortunate to see the Old Course embarrassed or abused, a creaking victim of knock and run. Yet it would be no surprise, on No 6 Heathery (out) for example, to see Woods hit driver and then putt from 70 yards.

The currently manacled links need nature to intervene and break the chains. Then the lottery of tee times will come into play and greater emphasis will be placed on course management. It is a prospect which disturbs Woods not one jot.

This challenge has transfixed him since he first took on the Scottish terrain and climate here in 1995, as an amateur. "Back then I could hit the ball long, there's no doubt about it, but I had no idea where it was going," he said. "I knew for a fact that I could hit every shot forward, in what direction was kind of marginal. I didn't really understand how to play links golf, how to bump the ball on the ground, because I never had. To run the ball and use any creativeness to get the ball around, I just got such a rush out of it. I used a lot of that experience that I had in 1995 here in 2000.

"This is how golf is meant to be played. You have to think. This week is different than most weeks because you have to try to get an understanding of how far the ball is going to run, an element you generally don't have to worry about. It's always more fun when you have to think your way around the golf course instead of get up there, hit down there and who cares where it goes.

"Golf is meant to be cerebral. You have to use your head to get around. This golf course allows you to be creative. It allows you to hit shots that you don't normally get a chance to hit, especially in the States."

Worst of all for his rivals, Tiger Woods believes he has emerged from the workshop with the finest grooved swing of his career. He had not won a major since the US Open of 2002 until he collected the Masters this spring and was then second in the US Open.

The American had been tinkering for 12 months, the second major swing overhaul of his career. Now vorsprung durch technik has been completed. "The process has been arduous, a lot of work, a lot of countless hours on the range, in front of a mirror, trying to get it right, trying to teach my body to do something that it hadn't done before," he said. "It took me about a year to put the pieces together.

"I don't know why I've had the patience to go through it. I have gotten frustrated at times. Trust me, I don't want to do it again. It takes a lot out of you."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory