TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Golf notebook: Woods' driver remedy to 'major' drought

TribLIVE Sports Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Scott Brown
Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Tiger Woods has moved close enough to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championship victories that for most people, Woods included, his season doesn't truly start until the Masters in April.

But Woods has been stuck on 14 majors since outlasting Greensburg native Rocco Mediate in one of the most memorable duels in U.S. Open history. Since beating Mediate in 2008 — he forced a playoff by curling in a birdie putt on the 72nd hole — Woods' personal life has unraveled.

The swing changes he made also have been subjected to scorn and scrutiny.

Woods turned 37 in December. If he doesn't break a four-year majors drought this season, he figures to become a long shot to threaten Nicklaus' hallowed record.

“If he gets the driver back in play, he'll win again,” Mediate said. “Easily.”

And if he doesn't?

“Absolutely no chance,” Mediate said.

Extremes always have framed Woods' pursuit of Nicklaus, given his single-minded approach to the record. That is more pronounced than ever since a wayward driver has been one of the main reasons Woods struggles to regularly contend in majors he used to own.

Woods won the Farmers Insurance Open last month at Torrey Pines, site of his epic U.S. Open victory over Mediate. But he ranks just 102nd on the PGA Tour this season in driving accuracy, hitting a little more than 57 percent of fairways.

Mediate said that has to change, and he is rooting for it, as he has long been one of Woods' biggest admirers.

“You never know what that kid is going to do. I still call him a kid because he's way younger than me and I'm never surprised at what he does,” said Mediate, who turned 50 a week before Christmas. “I hope he wins more majors. I hope he contends for Jack's record, but with the way he drives it now, it's hard to win majors. He's shown that the last three or four years.”

Bullish on Phil

Johnny Miller has an early favorite to win the first major of the year.

“I think it's Phil's Masters,” Miller said during a recent conference call.

Phil Mickelson has won the Masters three times, including as recently as 2010, and he will be one of the players to beat at Augusta National for the reasons Miller is so bullish on him: past success, creativity, scrambling ability and a course that is forgiving to players who spray the ball off the tee.

Woods and Rory McIlroy also will be two of the favorites, but Miller said Woods is not consistently making the kind of putts he did while winning three times at Augusta from 2001-05.

That is why Miller, who won the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, is leaning toward Mickelson over Woods — at least for now.

Miller, the NBC analyst who rankles both tour players and fans with his candid style, said in his own inimitable way that the players who best manage their nerves will be the ones jockeying for the green jacket.

“We know that all players basically choke at the Masters,” Miller said. “It's just (by) how much.”

Open qualifiers

Westmoreland Country Club in Export and Grove City Country Club are among the 111 courses hosting U.S. Open local qualifiers this year.

Westmoreland will hold an 18-hole qualifier May 9, while Grove City will stage one May 14. A select number of players from every local qualifier advances to sectional qualifiers, which are one step away from the U.S. Open.

The major will be played at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia from June 13-16.

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at sbrown@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ScottBrown_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
  2. Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
  3. Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
  4. Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
  5. Consol takes $603 million loss in second quarter
  6. Rising East Liberty out of reach for Pittsburgh’s poor
  7. Former Cal U football player cleared of assault charges sues university, police, prosecutor
  8. Dollars and sense: High cost of child care keeps many out of work force
  9. Pa. House speaker says overriding Wolf’s budget veto ‘an option’
  10. Watering garden right during summer’s high temperatures makes difference
  11. Medical pot has advocate in Pennsylvania House