No one can be disappointed with Tiger Woods' comeback so far. He's healthy, striking the ball brilliantly, contending, and most importantly, still electrifying golf fans at the twirl of a club. There's only one thing missing.
With only a handful of events left on the docket for Woods, the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie will present him with his best chance at claiming a title this season.
The Open Championship is an old man's tournament. Across the last 10 years, the average age of the winner has been 35, and it's the only major to have four champions above the age of 40 during that time. Learning how to play links golf - hitting it low, utilizing the ground, and navigating the wind - takes a long time, especially for Americans. Other than Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, there are no contenders in the field this week who've made more trips to The Open than Tiger. This will be the 42-year-old's 20th appearance and his third time playing at Carnoustie.
Of his remaining events, this is the last time Tiger will have a giant experience edge over the rest of the field. There's nothing Carnoustie can throw at these golfers that Tiger would not have experienced in the past. His three Open wins and two top-15 finishes at Carnoustie prove that.
Getting creative around the Carnoustie greens will be critical in determining a winner. The winds will be howling, making greens difficult to hit, so figuring out how to save par will do wonders. Using obscure slopes, chipping it high or low depending on the wind, or putting from 100 feet are all possibilities. Luckily, this is an area of Tiger's game that returned very quickly, as he ranks fourth in strokes gained: around the green this season.
While others are hacking it out of a treacherous pot bunker or blading it over the green from a tight lie, Tiger will be able to gain an edge by drawing up a shot no one else would think of. As long as his putter is knocking in 5-footers all week, there shouldn't be a scrambling situation Tiger can't find his way out of.
Oh, yeah - Tiger stingers are back. The fairways at Carnoustie are baked and running as firm and fast as ever, with Brandt Snedeker hitting 427-yard drives. This will play perfectly into Woods' hands, as he's known for launching piercing stingers that look beautiful on TV. He's been spotted testing a new driving iron for this exact reason. Not only will his stingers run for miles on this course, but they'll also stay under the wind and most importantly, keep the driver in his bag.
Woods should find the short grass more often than he has been without giving up any distance, allowing his world-class approach game to take over from there. It's yet another reason why his best shot at winning in 2018 will come this week.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)