Tiger Woods is examining his 2000 triumphs at the US Open, the Open and US PGA for a boost as he prepares for Bethpage
The golf world developed such a frenzied state as Tiger Woods claimed the Masters that the helpful vagaries of a new schedule were forgotten. Woods was due to go in pursuit of a 16th major within weeks, even before he took the surprising decision to skip the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. Bethpage Black has been afforded the perfect storm: Woods, in his first start since winning in such epic scenes at Augusta National, will chase his fifth US PGA Championships Wanamaker Trophy, and his first since 2007, from Thursday.
Woods has previous for illustrations of how less is more. In 2008, with knee problems more acute than outsiders had recognised, he finished as runner-up to Trevor Immelman at Augusta National and did not re-appear until the US Open in June. Woods duly prevailed in a play-off at Torrey Pines, with fitness matters meaning that glory is widely recognised as one of the greatest in his illustrious career. Such fairytales had been consigned to past tense until last month, as Woods donned the Green Jacket once more.
The intervening weeks have included Woodss camp deny injury was responsible for his no-show at the Wells Fargo. Sightings of the 43-year-old walking gingerly added to a typically fevered rumour mill. In Woodss defence, even before the exertions attached to winning his 15th major after years of psychological and physical woe, he had acknowledged the likelihood of a tame 2019 schedule. The Thursday images of a grinning, physically uninhibited Woods at Bethpage on reconnaissance duties further offset anxious tones.
Im looking back in my past and looking at how did I do it in 2000 at the US Open, the Open and the PGA, Woods said of the year he won three successive majors. Those were quick turnarounds, one month each. What did I do? Having that positive Rolodex to revert back to is going to help. In the tournaments I do play in, Ill be fully invested and committed to playing and trying to win.
In the year in question, Woods played the three majors he quotes within five tournaments from mid-June to late August. What makes the scenario less comparable to now is the ageing within his body.
Another factor plays heavily into Woodss hands: he has won at Bethpage before, in the US Open of 2002. Woods clearly has the available knowledge to win at this New York venue, with the Masters demonstrating he also has the physical capability.
For this, the switching back of the PGA Championship to May for the first time since 1948, tournament organisers have been afforded the money-cant-buy marketing boost of Woods at the forefront once more.
The approach of the PGA of America to setting up the course will be fascinating. Under the guidance of the USGA for US Opens, an already testing property even by professional standards has at times lurched towards brutality. US PGA Championships, in contrast, have proved recently low-scoring playgrounds. In the past seven stagings, Justin Thomas in 2017 is alone in winning at only single digits under par. Brooks Koepka reached minus 16 in victory at Bellerive last August. Bethpage is an incredibly difficult course, its hard to even think that its a public course sometimes, said the defending champion.
Rightly heralded by the PGA of America as one of the most celebrated public courses in the game, Bethpage will host as things stand every member of the worlds top 100 ranked players in a field of 156.
A by-product of Woodss billboard standing once more is the relative anonymity afforded to the rest of the worlds top players in the tournament lead-up. Koepka sent Woods a message of congratulations in the aftermath of Augusta. The response referenced last years PGA, when Koepka held off Woods in St Louis. He responded with: Were 1-1, Koepka said. Hopefully well make that 2-1 very shortly.
Hes a hell of a player. I dont think anybody has ever questioned that. But the excitement that he brought, the fans, thats the reason a majority of people are golf fans. I would say 99% of the people that show up when hes playing are there to see him.
Bethpage should deliver testament to Koepkas assertion. If Woods does win again, an already elevated sport will be grasping breathlessly for fresh superlatives.