Sobel: The Case for Tiger Woods to Win — and Lose — the British Open

Sobel: The Case for Tiger Woods to Win — and Lose — the British Open article feature image

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods

  • Tiger Woods is in the hunt at the 2018 British Open, sitting at 5-under entering Sunday and playing his steadiest golf in recent memory.
  • But he's never come from behind to win a major, and there's a star-studded leaderboard ahead of him.
  • Jason Sobel provides both sides of the argument — why Tiger will and won't win the British Open on Sunday.

Anyone who’s ever watched a silly cartoon or terrible sitcom has seen visual evidence of the subconscious in the form of an angel and devil on a decision-maker’s shoulders, each stating their case for internal desires.

And anyone who’s ever played golf has heard these voices, even if you can’t see the images. Go for it from 240 yards over water, or lay up into wedge range? Try to ram that 30-footer into the back of the cup and risk three-putting, or lag it close for par? Try to maintain your sensibilities or grab a few more double-vodkas at the turn? (OK, in that last scenario, you might have actually seen those images.)

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For those who have waited 10 years for Tiger Woods to win a 15th career major and five years for him to win anything at all, the angel and devil are now hovering and whispering their cases into your ears.

With a third-round 5-under 66, Woods climbed into serious contention entering the final day of The Open Championship. He had the fifth-best odds (+1150) as the final pairings came down the stretch Saturday. All of which has many of us internally debating whether he can win that elusive next major title Sunday.

Cue the angel and devil.

Sit back and listen as they suggest why Tiger will — or won’t — win this tournament.

Why Tiger Woods will — or won’t — win the British Open

Why he’ll win: He’s got “the look.” You know the one. It’s the same look he’s had on 14 other occasions, when he’s swaggering through a major championship venue with so much determination that it’s impossible to envision any potential scenario that doesn’t involve him holding a trophy aloft on Sunday evening.

Why he won’t: Sure, he looks determined, but so do the other dozen or so players in contention, most of whom are no strangers to contending (and in some cases, winning) majors. And let’s remember: In each of those 14 circumstances when Tiger had “the look,” he also had something called “the lead.” As we all know, he’s never won a major when trailing after 54 holes.

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods

Why he’ll win: Dale Earnhardt was called “The Intimidator,” which might be the only reason Tiger never inherited that nickname. Fellow competitors used to grouse about him simply being more talented, not intimidating, but you know their heart rate sped up a few beats whenever they were paired with him. Now there’s a leaderboard largely comprised of players who have never dealt with Woods in the final round of a major. Sit back and watch those heart rates skyrocket Sunday.

Why he won’t: One of the great things about the new era of superstars — from Jordan Spieth to Rory McIlroy, each of whom are currently in contention — is that they have little fear on the golf course. They’ve all gotten to know a kinder, gentler Tiger on and off the course, and that should soften their image of him when he’s stalking them on a leaderboard.

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Why he’ll win: After two days of throwing jabs at Carnoustie, Woods started punching with haymakers on Saturday.

Here’s proof: In the first two rounds, he hit driver exactly four times; on Saturday, he pulled it out of the bag on six occasions. “I figured I’d have to probably go get it,” he said of his more aggressive strategy. Playing offense over defense should yield even more birdies in the final frame, as he can attack the course for a second straight day.

Why he won’t: Wait a minute … Tiger with driver in his hands more often might yield more birdies, but it’s also a recipe for disaster. There’s no way he can be aggressive for another 18 holes and avoid a few bogeys from the thick stuff. There’s a reason why players such as Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, each of whom bashed driver around this course for two days, aren’t playing golf this weekend. There’s more risk than reward.

Why he’ll win: He’s ready. It’s been four years and 50 weeks since Tiger’s last victory. Since then, he’s been through multiple back surgeries and suggested he might never play again, then returned to competitive golf and found his mojo. It now seems inevitable that he’ll win again, so why not Sunday? Coming from behind for the first time in a major and slaying a star-studded leaderboard would just be the icing on the cake.

Why he won’t: Tiger needed to crawl before he could walk. He needed to put together multiple rounds of solid golf before he could win again — and he’s done that. But now he needs to walk before he can run. That means he needs to win again — somewhere, anywhere — before he can win another major. He always talks about the process, and winning this weekend would skip one of those steps in this process.

But don’t just listen to that little cartoonish figure on your shoulder. Even Jack Nicklaus, a man who knows a thing or two about winning, recently said he thinks Tiger needs to learn how to win again. It’ll be tough to do that on a major championship track like Carnoustie.

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