There’s plenty of reasons why Tiger Woods “can’t” win The Open Championship at Muirfield on Sunday.
He’s zero-for-forever in major championships when he hasn’t had at least a share of the 54-hole lead. 54 times he’s gone into the final round of a major trailing with at least one other player, and not once has he come back for victory.
He’s coming off an elbow injury that cost him a full month of competition. It may have kept him out longer had it not been for the U.S. Open falling in just the right place on the schedule to keep him from fully rehabbing.
Then, of course, there’s Muirfield itself. Playing like a hockey rink at times, with firm, fast fairways and greens, the course has had its way with several players. Remember, it was only two days ago that Zach Johnson ran off to an early lead at -5. Now, Johnson finds himself four shots back of the leaders. Other than Woods, Hunter Mahan and leader Lee Westwood, nobody in the field has been able to break par for the first 54 holes.
All that is well and good, but it would be wrong to count Woods out just yet. Other than just being the greatest golfer of this generation, if not the best of all time, he’s been so dominant in 2013 when he’s been healthy that it’s hard to imagine Woods not winning his fourth Claret Jug, and his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
If you look at Tiger’s third round, it’s easy to just say that it was another poor Saturday at a major for the world’s No. 1 player. As a matter of fact, Tiger probably should have shot better considering how well he was able to stay out of trouble. He hit 12 fairways and 14 greens in regulation in Saturday’s third round. Despite his three bogeys and only two birdies, Woods also only needed 33 putts on his way to a one-over round of 72.
Those type of stats easily could have led to Woods shaving a stroke or two off the round, which would have him right up there with Westwood and tied for the lead.
It’s also not like Tiger’s never come back from a deficit on a Sunday to win anywhere. Remember how he chased down Rory Sabbatini at last year’s Memorial (at Muirfield Village, no less)? There’s that and 21 other times on the PGA Tour.
No, Woods doesn’t have that intimidation factor that he had earlier in his career, when other players would get so caught up with Tiger “on the prowl” that they might get in their own heads a bit. If Woods is going to win this week, he’s going to have to earn every bit of it. I just don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to think that the best player in the world can play like it for a few hours on Sunday.