Tiger Woods freely admits his body has changed significantly since his record-breaking US Open win in 2000, but he intends to use the same strategy at Pebble Beach this week.
Woods played down concerns over his health after opting to pull out of a scheduled practice round on Tuesday, while he was also reluctant to give specific details of the illness he suffered in the week of last month’s PGA Championship at Bethpage, where he missed the cut by a single stroke.
The Masters champion sounded a confident man as he bids to take his tally of major titles to 16 as the scene of his astonishing 15-shot victory in California 19 years ago, and he believes the same course-management will be crucial to his chances of success this week.
It’s not the same body that I had back in 2000, and I don’t think any of us have the same body we had 19 years ago, he said at his pre-tournament press conference. Athletically, that’s one of the challenges. How do you compete against kids that were born in the 2000s? They were born after I won this damn tournament!
But the strategy part really hasn’t changed that much. Because the golf ball is going further than it did back in 2000, I’m slower than I was in 2000, but it’s apples to oranges, I guess you could say.
I am about the same distance, so the golf course really doesn’t play that much differently for me. It’s just a matter of putting the ball in the right spots
If I feel good, then I feel like I can play any venue. It’s just that when I’m stiff and not moving as well, it becomes a little bit more difficult. Now, this week, we’re all going to be playing from virtually the same spots, and especially if it dries out. The longer guys will be hitting a shorter club; the shorter guys will be able to sneak driver down there.
How you put the ball in the correct position is the key. And these greens, we don’t face greens like this, this small and this steep. And so it puts a premium on iron play, because I feel like most of the field can drive the ball in the fairways, they’re plenty wide, the golf course is not overly long.
Woods insisted that he was holding back on a practice round to make sure he was fully rested for the challenge ahead, a ploy that paid off at Augusta National in April, while he is also keen to see the course closer to game time.
It’s just a rest day, he added. I did the same thing at Augusta, just trying to save my energy. It’s more important for me to feel energised than it is to go out there and get wear and tear.
Before Augusta I was right where I needed to be. I was hitting it high, I could shape it either way, and I could really hit a high hook. I felt very comfortable hitting a high hook with a sand wedge, high hook with a draw, any one of those shots.
And on those greens, to be able to take some of the slope out with curve, even around the greens, spin the ball either left-to-right or right-to-left and flatten those out, it was fun. But Bethpage was a different story. I was good going into the week, unfortunately just didn’t feel well.
This week I feel like I’m trending in the right direction. I need one more day of prep, and I want to see the golf course when it’s a little bit closer to game time. I know they’re holding it back, so I just want to see how much are they going to let it go and show us how it’s going to be come Thursday.
Woods also remains confident of matching, and possibly overhauling, Jack Nicklaus’ long-standing record of 18 major titles, although much depends on he can manage his fitness as he sets his sights on playing for another 10 years.
If I keep progressing how I am physically and how I’m getting better and better physically the last couple of years, I just need to give myself chances, he said. Hypothetically, let’s say I give myself 10 years. That’s 40 major championships. That’s a lot of majors.
And now the trick is now can I keep myself healthy enough and strong enough and fast enough to endure all that, considering what my body has gone through? And that’s where I need help with all my trainers and physios and workout regimes, and hopefully I can make that happen.