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Tiger Woods likely to return for British Open

 

The golf world badly needs Tiger Woods to return to the course. The ratings for the just-completed U.S. Open were at record lows without Woods there. When Tiger and Phil Mickelson aren’t in contention, American viewers generally don’t watch the sport.

Tiger hasn’t played since early March, when he underwent back surgery. He wasn’t close to playing in the U.S. Open but reports are it looks likely he could return for the British Open next month at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. Tiger is already the WagerWeb betting favorite for the tournament despite not having played in months.

Woods has spent the past few days hitting balls at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., and not just wedges and short irons. Eleven weeks after microdiscectomy surgery on his back, Woods was hitting full shots, including drivers, at his home club. It’s the first time Tiger has been able to hit full shots. Woods had previously been limited to just light chipping and putting as he recovers from back surgery on March 31. He clearly would love to play at Hoylake as he won his last of three British Opens there in 2006.

In May, the Golf Channel reported that Tiger Woods had targeted the British Open for his return to competitive golf, but Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, has said only that he “expect[s] it to be this summer.”

The longest Jack Nicklaus ever went between major championship wins was from the 1980 PGA Championship to the 1986 Masters — a string of 20 whiffs at the big ones. As of the 2014 U.S. Open, hasn’t won in 24 straight majors. His longest drought before this one was 10 majors and that happened twice. Other than those he’s never gone more than three majors between wins.

If Tiger isn’t ready for the British Open, the focus will be on the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which is just three weeks later. The Ryder Cup also is this fall and Woods loves that competition.

In the 2006 Open, which came just a few months after Tiger’s father passed away, Woods hit driver only one time the entire week — the 16th hole of the first round. Although the overall yardage was 7,258, the course was playing much shorter due to the dry conditions. Tiger took advantage, utilizing 3-woods and 2-irons off the tee. The result was greater accuracy, as he hit almost 86 percent of all fairways, leading to three eagles, 19 birdies, 43 pars, and only seven bogeys for the week. He beat Chris DiMarco by two shots, making Tiger the first player since Tom Watson in 1982-83 to win golf’s oldest championship in consecutive years.

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