The PGA Championship starts Thursday at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, marking the final major of the 2015 season.
Going into the week, one of the big storylines is: Will Tiger Woods be even the slightest bit relevant?
When it comes to Woods — although it always seems possible he’ll look like his old, dominant self — nothing about Whistling Straits will do him any favours. Perhaps the biggest weakness in Tiger’s game right now is driving accuracy, and that’s a horrible problem to have at this specific course.
According to the course’s Head Golf Professional Mike O’Reilly, the key to playing well this weekend will be hitting fairways. He told the Sheboygan Press that you’re doomed if you can’t drive the ball accurately:
“The severity of the mounds, the bunkering, now we have the rough grown out and it is so thick and the severity of the drop-offs adjacent to the fairways, hitting the fairway is big. If you do miss the fairway, if you’re not 100 per cent certain that you can advance the shot and get it on to the green, you might have to take your lumps to get it back into play.”
“The tee shot on the Straits course is one of the most important shots, to keep the ball in play.”
Keeping the ball in play and hitting the fairway is, of course, sound strategy for any golfer on any course, but O’Reilly’s words feel especially important when thinking about Woods because, a) Whistling Straits is not your average golf course (see above), and b) Woods has been extremely sporadic this year off the tee.
Per PGAtour.com, Woods is hitting a meager 55% of fairways, gaining -1.438 strokes tee-to-green in 2015. His ever-changing swing is still problematic, and woods and drivers offer the least room for error.
Even in the few tournaments this year where Woods has played well, he has been unable to hold it together for four straight rounds. Two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National, Woods shot 68-66-74-68. Shooting 74 on a Saturday all but put him out of contention, and — as usual — his trouble was in the teebox, where he hit only half his fairways.
Even if Tiger’s game is starting to come together, he’ll have to play exceptionally well on a course that’s not built for him to contend.
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