Tiger Woods: Not playing before Open Championship may be a mistake

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 16: Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot from the fifth tee during the final round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 16, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 16: Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot from the fifth tee during the final round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 16, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Tiger Woods left the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a disappointing finish, and now he’s likely to be out until the Open Championship. That’s a major risk, for a potential major payoff.

Tiger Woods entered this past week’s U.S. Open as a strong favorite, and for good reason. The course has long been one that favors his game, and he’s been pretty successful on the Monterey Peninsula over the years. You know, winning by 15 in a U.S. Open will do that, two decades in the past or not.

That made the end result at Pebble Beach even more distressing. Tiger struggled to get any real momentum going up until the final round, and even then, things got way worse before they got better. He opened his Sunday round with four bogeys in his first six holes; even though that was offset with six birdies the rest of the way, it was only enough to bring him into a tie for 21st place overall.

Since Woods won his 15th career major at the Masters in April, he’s taken different approaches to the PGA and the U.S. Open. In the familiar comfort of the green jacket, Tiger didn’t tee it up again until he made the trip to Bethpage Black. The result: a surprising missed cut.

Clearly that didn’t work out, so Tiger made sure to play the Memorial Tournament between Bethpage and Pebble. He enjoyed a steady run to a top-ten finish at Jack’s place, and all seemed right with the world once again.

The result was slightly better this past week, but not as much as most – Tiger himself included – would have hoped. So what does that mean for the final major of 2019, the Open Championship next month at Royal Portrush?

Well, so far we know a handful of things, and none of them are particularly encouraging to me when it comes to Tiger’s chances at raising the Claret Jug.

First, that Tiger is extremely unlikely to add another Tour event to his schedule before the trip to Northern Ireland. When asked if he would play before the Open, Woods answered clearly.

“I’ll play at home, yeah,” he said.

Which brings us to the second thing we know: Tiger Woods may not be home for a little while yet. Instead of making the journey from the California coast to his home in Jupiter, Fla., Woods went the other direction, bringing his kids and girlfriend to Bangkok, Thailand for some quality rest and relaxation.

There are five weeks between now and Portrush, and this is still Tiger Woods we’re talking about. He could just as easily decide on short notice that he wants some extra reps, as he’s done many times in the past. But if he doesn’t return to action until the Open, the major season might not end on anything near the high note it began on.

I know that this is the “new normal” for Tiger Woods, and that most of us – Tiger included – are still adjusting to that fact. I also understand that at 43, and with his injury history, the grind of playing the PGA TOUR week after week gets much more difficult, no matter how comfortably he travels and rests.

But here’s the issue. One of the things Tiger said that he struggled with at Pebble Beach was the cool weather. He used KT Tape to try to help with a sore neck, but it may or may not have helped much. “When it’s cold like this, everything is achy. It’s just part of the deal,” he said.

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"“Let me put it this way,” he went on. “I feel every shot I hit. I think that’s always going to be the case from here going forward.”"

Only Tiger himself truly knows what his body is capable of these days, but I have a hard time believing that staying out of competition for more than a month will be the best move.

High temperatures in County Antrim in mid-July might push in to the upper 60s at best, and that’s if the typical clouds and rain move out of the area. If not, we’ll have a traditionally gray, damp and cool Open Championship, with weather a bit worse than what we got at Pebble Beach.

There’s also the fact that Woods has played just nine times so far in 2019, a far cry from the 18 he played last year, counting the FedEx Cup Playoffs. If Woods doesn’t play until the Open, he may be saving some energy to play the following week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational (say that three times, fast). After that, it’s a bye week (sorry, Wyndham) then three weeks of Cup playoffs.

That’s still just 14 starts, but with a significant amount of down time throughout a condensed major schedule. I don’t know how much harm one more start, bringing him to 15 for the season, would do.

Why the U.S. Open should return to Pebble Beach far more often. dark. Next

Maybe I’m looking at this from a fan perspective, just wanting one more start from Tiger Woods in a year that started with his return to major victory. But I’m also a fan who wants to see Tiger at his best going for No. 16, and I don’t know if taking this much time off is the right way to go.