It’s been 10 years since Tiger Woods won his 14th and last major at the 2007 PGA Championship. His next opportunity to end the long and once unforeseen drought begins today at the 118th U.S. Open being held at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton on Long Island.
Sixteen years ago, Woods captured the 2002 U.S. Open on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, a short drive from Shinnecock, shooting a 3-under-par 277. So much has happened in his life since then, including well documented marital issues, bouts with debilitating back and knee injuries and bouts with prescription pain medication, for which he was clinically treated last summer.
Yet after some of his recent showings, including shooting a third-round 65 and fourth-round 69 at the Players Championship last month, the 42-year-old Woods is one of the top eight favorites at 20-1 to emerge from Shinnecock victorious despite being ranked only 80th in the world. Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 ranked golfer, is the betting favorite at 8-1.
“There’s no way I would have predicted I would be at this point the beginning of the year,” he said after finishing 11th, “the way I was just coming back and just trying to get a feel for it and then hopefully have a schedule…But now I feel like I’ve got my playing feels and I’m playing tournament golf and I’ve got it. I’m not that far off from winning golf tournaments.”
Woods has not found the consistency to engineer four strong rounds in a single tournament since his return to the sport from an injury in January at the Farmers Insurance Open. At that time, he was simply satisfied with just being on the course.
“It felt so good to be back with the guys and compete again. Words can’t describe how much I missed it. Most importantly, I was pain-free,” he wrote on his website. Woods’ expectations have risen dramatically in six months. He knows if he can indeed be more precise on the greens, he has a chance to be in the final grouping Sunday or make one of his legendary charges on the back nine.
After all of his physical and personal struggles, there was reasonable doubt as to whether he would ever win another major. Although skepticism remains in the minds of some, Woods has demonstrated he still possesses the necessities to be the best in the world, at least for a four-day stretch.