On a day when the lowest score was 3-under par, 67 at the U.S. Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club — two, by Lee Westwood and Casey Wittenberg — Tiger Woods could manage no better than a 5-over 75.
Woods said later that it was because he was between clubs all day long; a half club one way or the other. But if that was the problem, you wouldn’t think that he would be making as many practice swings as he was making before each shot on the back nine. What he’s trying to do is get the feel of the club going to left on the target side of the ball. It allows him to better trap the ball and it’s the reason that he’s had a renaissance in his play. He has constantly spoken about how much better he’s hitting the ball after his swing change with Sean Foley.
But five or six repetitive swings before each shot, while it can reinforce what he wants his body to do, what the swing should feel like, it also has him fixated on his swing and not the target. All good players play to the target they choose with very little attention to their swing; they “simply” allow their swing to hit the ball at their fixation.
One guy who did that well was the 2010 U.S. Open champion, Graeme McDowell. And to reinforce my point about “allowing” his swing to hit the ball, he has a very personalized swing. There’s nothing wrong with that, he just doesn’t seem to be fixated on the mechanical aspects of his swing, but just letting it swing. He’s tied for the lead at 1-under with Jim Furyk, the 2003 Open champion.
Two strokes back at 1-over is Fredrik Jacobson, the Swede with the idiosyncratic swing that isn’t that idiosyncratic when you slow it down on video and, as Peter Kostis pointed out, notice it’s just that his head is moving oddly. Cover his head on the video with your hand and the swing is quite traditional. Whether he has the high-stakes competitive chops to hang in there on Sunday remains to be seen. He has an awesome short game, quite handy in U.S. Opens where a lot of greens get missed.
At 2-over are: Belgian, Nicholas Colsaerts; Blake Adams; Ernie Els and Lee Westwood who will be paired in the next to the last group with Jacobson. And after all his close calls, he speaks with a quiet, no-nonsense confidence about his chances, “Well, you don’t really deserve to win it until you do, isn’t it?” I like his chances this time.
Buried in the 3-overs are hot hand Jason Dufner and feel-good amateur, Beau Hossler, who has shifted his goals from being the Low Amateur to maybe even winning the thing. He’s not claiming it, he’s only stipulating that from where he is it’s possible. Convention says probably not, but you have to like that he’s thinking that way. He just has to hope that the new goal doesn’t overwhelm his senses.
Leading the 4-overs is Tiger, joined by such luminaries as Martin Kaymer, Matt Kuchar and Retief Goosen, who has won two Opens. Tiger will be paired way back with Wittenberg who is 5-over and will have to make some noise early, post a score and hope it holds up.
So there you have it. Can Tiger make up five strokes? Probably not given the lid the course seems to have on scoring — it’s tough! But the wind is supposed to blow 10 to 25 Sunday and people coming back to the field in such conditions is more the rule than the exception.
All things equal, it will be another fascinating day.