Can Tiger Woods (realistically) win the 2018 Open Championship?
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Can Tiger Woods (realistically) win the 2018 Open Championship?

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On May 9, when Tiger Woods announced that he would be competing in this year’s British Open Championship, which is taking place at the Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, he expressed confidence in his usual Tiger-esque fashion. In a tweet, Tiger stated, “I won two of my Open Championships in Scotland and the other one in England, so let’s try and add another one in there.”

Since then, he’s played inconsistently — yet shown flashes of his former brilliance — in his performances at The Players Championship (T-11), The Memorial Tournament (T-23) and the U.S. Open (MC).

Tiger Shines at the National

Most recently, in his final start before the Open Championship, Tiger gave himself even more reason to feel positive. On July 1, Tiger tied for fourth place at the Quicken Loans National, which is his second-best finish of the year (he tied for second place at the Valspar Championship in March). At the National, Tiger showed some promising signs that he might be slowly but surely stitching his golf game back together.



Tiger’s Movement in the Golf Rankings

Tiger’s impressive performance at the National was his third top-5 finish since March, and as a result, he’s broken into the top 70 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in more than three years. At the time of writing, he’s now advanced 15 additional spots to No. 67, which is his best position since he was No. 66 in February of 2015 (believe it or not, Tiger started the year ranked dauntingly at No. 656). With his improving performance, does he have a shot at another major title?

His Likely Competition

Before Tiger fans get ahead of themselves, they should recognize the plethora of talented players who could stand in his way. Here are just a few:

It’s no surprise that Dustin Johnson is the bookies’ favorite to win the Open Championship. He’s the No. 1-ranked player in the world and is in the prime of his career. And as we witnessed at this year’s U.S. Open (well, for at least three out of the four days), his low, piercing ball flight is optimal for making a run at wind-swept links courses. However, Johnson has let several big tournament wins slip through his hands, which has resulted in his having only one major title among his 18 PGA Tour wins.

Ranked No.3 in the world, Justin Rose rarely has an off tournament performance, but when he does (like at Shinnecock Hills), his putting and scrambling skills allow him to hover on the leaderboard. However, it’s now been five years since his breakthrough win at the 2013 U.S. Open that was supposed to “open the floodgates.” Also, Rose has a spotty British Open record, with his best finish being two decades ago.

Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed is another contender to watch. On the last day of this year’s U.S. Open, he birdied five of his first seven holes on the same treacherous Shinnecock Hills course that laid waste to many of the top players in the world. That said, in four British Open starts, Reed has finished at a T-20 and a T-12, and he’s missed two cuts.

Tiger’s (Realistic) Odds for a Win

When assessing Tiger’s odds of winning the upcoming British Open (which is the third major of the season), one should note that he has openly professed his love for links golf. Tiger won the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews as part of the “Tiger Slam.” He then reclaimed the Claret Jug in 2005 (once again at St. Andrews), and then followed that up with a victory at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in 2006. With respect to his two prior Opens at Carnoustie, Tiger has finished at a solid T-7 (with a jaw-dropping score of +10 in 1999) and T-12 (in 2007).

It’s only natural for punters to “go with their gut” (or their raw emotions) when picking their winners. At the time of writing, BetStars has Tiger’s odds at 25/1 to win the Open Championship. But no matter what the bookies predict, devout fans will bet it all on Tiger out of pure optimism, based on the magic of Tiger’s past performances.

But the reality is that Tiger’s major championship drought has now officially lasted more than a decade. And the fact that the missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills indicates that there are still plenty of holes left in his golf game. But given his recent successes, as well as his enduring mystique, there’s at least one thing that both fans and detractors alike can agree upon: when it comes to the great Tiger Woods, anything is possible.

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