| Tiger Woods walks past a St George’s flag during a practice round in Sandwich on Sunday
Sandwich (England): Tiger Woods played Royal St George’s for the first time on Sunday. His analysis at the end of the day — he might need a few more rounds to get a feel for this British Open.
On some holes, he couldn’t figure out which way to go.
On others, he couldn’t believe where his ball wound up.
“There’s a lot of blind shots,” Woods said after playing 18 holes with Charles Howell III on a warm, windy day on the South Eastern coast. “You’re going to have to play a few rounds to get an idea where to go,” he said. “On a couple of holes, I didn’t know which way to go.”
Which holes' “I can’t remember,” Woods said with a laugh.
His only experience of Royal St George’s is videotape of 1993, the last time the British Open was held on the quirky links. Greg Norman won that year, closing with a 64 to hold off Nick Faldo and a collection of the game’s best players.
Norman’s 13-under 267 stands as the British Open record, and it might be safe if the weather continues to be unseasonably sunny and warm. It has left the fairways brown and brittle, and the wind coming off Pegwell Bay makes it hard to control tee shots.
Woods found that to be the case on the 460-yard 18th hole.
He had a driver in his hand, then put that back and chose a 2-iron. He paused again, selecting a 3-wood, and his tee shot into a right-to-left wind rolled all the way into a bunker. He dropped a ball short of the bunker, and his approach bounced onto and over the green.
Woods said the firm, fast conditions remind him of St Andrews, where he completed the career Grand Slam three years ago with an eight-shot victory.
Only this course is nothing like St Andrews.
While Royal St George’s has its share of bunkers, the humps and hollows along the fairway make it difficult to keep the ball in the short grass.
“The fairways are the most severe I’ve seen,” Woods said.
On the 458-yard 17th, woods hit a 2-iron that drew gently to the middle of the fairway. The massive mounding — which looks like someone did a bad job burying elephants — kicked his ball into the left rough.
“The slopes are steep,” Woods said. “You saw what happened on 17. I hit it right down the middle and it’s in the rough, because I hit it too firm.”
Woods isn’t alone.
Only six of the top 20 players in the world ranking have played a British Open at Royal St George’s, so most of them will be just as unfamiliar with the links.
And while Woods studied the tapes, there is no guarantee he’ll get the same conditions from 10 years ago, especially a brief downpour that softened the course just before the leaders teed off in the final round.
“Totally different conditions,” Woods said. “You could see guys holding shots. Not today.”