It’s time to take a look back at the 10 lessons from Turnberry before the season’s final Slam takes center stage.
1. Tiger Woods is indeed human. While the reaction to Tiger’s second missed cut in a major as a professional has been somewhat sensationalized, Tiger did look more discombobulated at Turnberry than he has ever looked at a major. Sure, even icons experience off weeks, but Tiger’s body language was more disturbing than his disjointed swing at the British Open.
Compared with the loose version of Woods seen in his controlled strolls to victory at the Memorial and AT&T National, Woods looked tight and uncertain at Turnberry, uncharacteristically backing off shots and seemingly overanalyzing every approach and putt. Woods has looked like a different player in the majors this season. It truly looks as if he’s starting to think about catching Jack Nicklaus’ major record (18 victories) instead of simply playing.
2. Links golf is the great equalizer. Not to diminish the exploits of 53-year-old Greg Norman at Birkdale and 59-year-old Tom Watson at Turnberry, but such timeless performances are only possible at the British Open, where firm, fast, windy links conditions favor experience and golf guile over the PGA Tour’s ball-striking Holy Trinity of length, height and spin.
“[Watson] doesn’t carry the ball very far, but he has a great tumbling ball flight,” said Mathew Goggin, who was paired with Watson for the finale at Turnberry. “In America, it’s a bit lusher and the courses are a bit longer and you’ve got to carry the ball, and he probably doesn’t have much of a chance. But he can contend on these golf courses forever the way he strikes the ball.”
3. Regardless of what happens at the PGA Championship (Aug. 13-16), this always will be the “Almost” Slam season. From Kenny Perry falling to Angel Cabrera at the Masters to Lucas Glover spiking a pair of delicious storylines at Bethpage (Phil Mickelson and David Duval) to Cink over Watson at Turnberry, the sentimental favorite has missed out in every major finale this year.
4. The R&A is every bit as meddling as the USGA. For years, the R&A has said it relies on the weather to defend its British Open venues, but the pin positions Friday and Saturday at Turnberry were absurd.
5. Sports has a ludicrous modern bias. The fact that Watson is one 10-footer from a major title at 59 should be cause for re-evaluating the perceived superiority of the modern game. Turnberry’s near miss says a lot about the stiffs upon whom Tiger has been feasting.
6. Sergio Garcia is living in denial. On the Tuesday before the tournament, Garcia described his putting as a “15 out of 10.” He then averaged a woeful 30.5 putts a round, missing a handful from less than five feet en route to tying for 38th. The 29-year-old Spaniard will never win a major until he admits he has a serious problem and seeks help. With Phil Mickelson on the shelf, guru Dave Pelz is available.
7. Speaking of putting, Tiger’s primary issue in this season’s majors has been his misbehaving blade. Woods is on the verge of just his second season without a top-five finish in the majors (2004) principally because he’s averaging nearly two more putts a round in majors (29.90) than in regular PGA Tour starts (27.96).
8. That putting disconnect isn’t likely to help Hank Haney. For the first time at a major since Woods and Haney began working with each other in 2003, Haney didn’t accompany Woods to Turnberry.
“I think it’s clear that Tiger needs to re-evaluate his relationship with Hank Haney,” BBC analyst and former player Mark James said.
If Haney doesn’t show up at Firestone (Aug. 6-9) or Hazeltine, you can assume he has been sacked by Woods. It’s always been obvious that the flatter Haney swing has been more difficult for Woods to repeat and control than the more upright Butch Harmon model.
9. Karma will come calling for Colin Montgomerie in Wales next year. Captain Monty will pay for his unforgivable sin in Jakarta (2005 cheating incident) by absorbing a Ryder Cup beatdown from the strongest U.S. squad in two decades.
10. Courtesy of Lee Westwood’s tie for third at Turnberry, the three best active players never to win a major are now all Europeans (Garcia, Westwood and Montgomerie). The three bridesmaids are 0-for-159 in majors and spiraling toward spinsterhood.