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Weather conditions could decide Open fate of on-song Tiger


Tiger Woods. Photo: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Tiger Woods. Photo: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Tiger Woods. Photo: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

IF ever there was a perfect time for Tiger Woods to end his barren run in major championships, this week's US Open could well be it.

The last of the world number one's 14 major titles came in the same event in 2008 via a play-off with Rocco Mediate, which meant the tournament went into a fifth day.

Five years on, Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania hosts the 113th US Open, which is scheduled to finish on Sunday.

A simple coincidence it may be, but there are plenty of other reasons to think Woods will finally take another step closer to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles.

Woods has won four times in 2013, including in three of his last five events, and is a collective 52 under par on the PGA Tour this season.

He could arguably also have won the Masters if not for the approach to the 15th in the second round at Augusta which bounced off the flag and into the water.

Admittedly, that could also have led to his disqualification from the tournament given the subsequent incorrect drop which eventually led to a two-shot penalty.

But Woods still finished fourth, four shots outside the play-off eventually won by Adam Scott.

However, as always with statistics, there is another way to look at the numbers.

In his last tournament before the US Open, Woods went into Memorial as a massive favourite at a venue where he has tasted victory five times before.

But instead of chalking up another win, the 37-year-old barely made the cut at Muirfield Village and then shot the worst nine-hole score of his career (44) en route to his second-worst round (79) as a professional.

Even in the four events he has won, Woods' scoring average on the back nine in the final round is 37, while on the last four holes of those wins he is a combined five over par.

Fans of Woods will point out that he has usually bounced back extremely well after disappointing performances.

In 2005, after finishing 53rd at the Players Championship, Woods won the Masters in his next start.

The following year, after shooting consecutive rounds of 76 in the US Open to miss his first cut in a major as a professional following the death of his father, he won the next two majors and finished second in the two after that.

So which Woods will turn up at Merion, a tight venue which will play just 6,996 yards but defends itself with narrow fairways, penal rough and three par-threes over 230 yards and a par-four 18th at 521 yards?

That could depend on the weather conditions.

Merion is usually a fast, dry course which does not require players to use a driver on many holes, which would play into Woods' hands, much as it did in the British Open Championship at Hoylake in 2006 or more recently at the Players Championship.

However, the heavy rain falling at the site for this week's US Open has changed all that, with more torrential downpours expected today and tomorrow in the shape of thunderstorms in Pennsylvania meaning slower greens and softer fairways, more suited to Rory McIlroy's game.

Nevertheless, the 37-year-old American could still join the list of famous winners at Merion which includes Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino.

"It would be nice," Woods said. "We've got a long way to go. We haven't started yet. We've got some work to do.

"Anyone who wins this week will certainly be a part of history, just like it is with any US Open or any USGA event.

"I just enter events to win and that's it, whether there's a lot of people following or there's nobody out there.

"That's why I played as a junior, all the way through to now – to just try to kick everyone's butt.

"That, to me, is the rush. That's the fun. That's the thrill.

"It's been nice to be a part of the mix for 17 years now out here and be a part of a lot of great duels and a lot of great battles.

"And that to me is why I prepare, why I lift all those weights. I put myself through all that to be in those type of positions."