Pros advice

Is Tiger in good shape ahead of The Open?

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Are we expecting Tiger Woods to make a real run at No. 15 in Carnoustie? Mark Townsend and Keel Timmins lock horns in Alternate Shot.

Yes, says Mark Townsend

Of course he is. All everyone kept repeating, ad nauseam, at the start of this comeback is to give him some time before then leaping all over every shot and every round score.

All Tiger wanted was to be judged further down the line.

Well six months into the season and his game is just dandy. Yes, yes the putter isn’t firing, and the trusty Scotty is now in the dog house, but he’s just recorded 21 birdies at the Quicken Loans so something must be working OK.

At the start of the season we were all panicking about his ability to keep it on the fairway at certain times, while raving about the scrambling, and then we started questioning his finishing skills. Given the coverage and interest we just jump from one supposed problem to another when the bottom line is that he is plotting his way up the chart.

And he’s smiling a lot and it seems genuine.

The simple facts, six months on, are that he’s playing injury free, he’s not only making cuts (which plenty thought was beyond him) but competing at the business end of things on a regular basis and you could very easily argue that he’s on the verge of something very special.

You wouldn’t necessarily associate Woods with Carnoustie (other than that hooked iron OOB) but he’s finished 7th and 12th there in two very different Opens and he’s got three Claret Jugs which puts him ahead of everyone else in the field.

It’s like a film script and, at some point, maybe quite soon, we’re going to get the happy ending.

No, says Keel Timmins.

If you had told me this time last year that Tiger would go on to make his comeback and have several chances of winning on the PGA Tour, I wouldn’t have believed you. Indeed, he’s had a chance at the Honda Classic, Valspar, Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Players Championship and this week at the Quicken Loans National. His comeback has been a success, no doubt about it.

But heading into Carnoustie, if he really is targeting the win, I would be a lot more confident had he already got a win under his belt this year.

His ball striking has been great but the putting – normally his strength and the most reliable part of his game – has fallen off a cliff. It must be in a really bad place if he’s to ship out the old trusty Scotty Cameron in favour of this new Taylormade mallet.

While I think he will go well at The Open, if he does get into contention, I really don’t see him converting because of that uncertainty with the putter and his lack of recent experience of winning.

I’d love to be proven wrong, though.

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