TAMING a wounded animal is a dangerous proposition in any sport – especially if that animal happens to be a Tiger.
Tiger Woods may have looked out-of-sorts and going through the motions during his worst-ever 18-over-par total in the WGC-Bridgestone last weekend, but I’d be very surprised to see a repeat of that at Whistling Straits, starting today, when the world No1 goes in search of a 15th Major title in the US PGA Championship
Incredibly, Tiger has been pushed out to 17-1 by the bookies for a fifth US PGA victory – fantastic odds for a man who simply thrives on pressure and proving his critics wrong.
Tiger will be aware, however, that Whistling Straits is not the place to play if you’re not at the peak of your powers.
With its stunning views providing the perfect backdrop to Lake Michigan, this is a breathtaking links course, crafted by Pete Dye on the site of a former army base.
On the other hand, however, with it’s 1,200 bunkers and 7,507 yards of tight fairways and greens – the second longest in Major history – it is also the most unforgiving course in the world. It’s relentless from the first drive to the final putt and anyone, Woods included, will get found out – and very quickly – if they’re not on the top of their game.
The Straits course is supposed to replicate the links courses of Britain and Ireland, but I don’t necessarily mean that favours a home player – it’s so tough, it’s simply about who can step up to the plate and hold their nerve on the day.
Vijay Singh was the last Major champion here, back in 2004, and that pretty much tells you what you need to know about how to win here.
Vijay is one of the longest, straightest drivers on the circuit and that’s the dream combination again this weekend with pin-point accuracy essential.
It’s a pity that Lee Westwood is missing this weekend as the course would have suited him down to the ground, although the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter will all be quietly confident that their game can stand up to the challenges that await.
US PGA | PAST WINNERS
2009 YE?Yang (Hazeltine)
2008 Padraig Harrington (Oakland Hills)
2007 Tiger Woods (4) (Southern Hills)
2006 Tiger Woods (3) (Medinah)
2005 Phil Mickelson (Baltusrol)
2004 Vijay Singh (2) (Whistling Straits)
2003 Shaun Micheel (Oak Hill)
2002 Rich Beem (Hazeltine)