Anyone who wants to know exactly how outstanding a chance Tiger Woods has of winning his fourth Open Championship this weekend need only ask the man who has spent the last two days watching the American’s golf at the closest possible quarters – his playing partner Graeme McDowell, who was unequivocal in his praise.
“I said to him on the 18th green, ‘That was a clinic the last two days – that was very impressive’,” said an awed McDowell, after Woods carded par to add to his 69 yesterday. “He certainly looks like he’s very close to being back. There will be no surprise to me if he’s picking up the Claret Jug on Sunday night. I’m not writing myself off. But it would be very hard for me to beat him at this point if he keeps playing like he’s playing.”
For McDowell, the impression made by Woods’ play was all the greater because their group was a two-ball all day today, as a result of Louis Oosthuizen’s withdrawal halfway through yesterday’s round with a neck and hip injury.
“It made the intensity level crank up,” reported McDowell, who nonetheless matched Woods’ achievement of par today, to lie four over after two rounds. “I’m fairly comfortable playing with Tiger. The only trap I fall into is you find yourself standing back and getting a little too full of admiration. It takes you out of your own zone. It’s very difficult to focus on your own game when you’re watching the best player maybe ever.
“He was very, very impressive the last two days. The flight control he has in his irons – he just hits the shot that you’re supposed to hit at all times. I’m not sure there’s a better iron player in the world. It’s incredible how well he controls his ball flight. I had to double check with Joe, his caddie, that the driver head cover actually had a driver underneath it, because it hasn’t seen the light of day, not even close. He’s using his iron play to devastating effect.
“And he’s putting exceptionally well. I lost count of how many eight-, 10- and 15-footers he’s made for par over the last two days, how many comebacks for par, leaving them short, blowing them by. He’s putting them exceptionally well. You’ve got to play extremely well here to score, and I certainly watched how it’s done the last couple of days with TW.”
Then McDowell smiled wryly and added: “It was nice to be the only man in that two-ball that’s won a Major in the last five years.”