"I suspect No. 15 will come for Tiger Woods in about two weeks," Nicklaus said at the trophy presentation. "If he drives the ball this way, and plays this way, I'm sure it will. And if not, it will surprise me greatly."
That year was full of so many surprises.
Woods won every tournament he played before the majors, and failed to win any of them. By the end of the year, his problems were off the golf course and he hasn't seriously challenged in the final hour of another major since then.
He won at Bay Hill, and then had his worst performance ever at the Masters as a pro when he tied for 40th.
Woods never broke par the last time the U.S. Open was played at The Olympic Club in 1998, though he was in the middle of changing his swing. He played the golf course last Tuesday and found it to be difficult, which it is. It is short by U.S. Open standards, though it plays long.
If nothing else, Olympic served as the perfect tuneup for Muirfield Village.
"Last week I did some good things, good work at home, and really got comfortable with the things that Sean (Foley) and I have been working on the last few tournaments and months," Woods said. "As soon as they felt comfortable, I was good to go. And when I went out and played Olympic, I hit the ball well there. I said, 'Hey, that's as good a prep as any for this event if I can hit the ball well there.'
"I just basically carried that into this event and hit it great all week."
Does this make him a failure if he doesn't win the U.S. Open? Is he done?
Woods talked about his game being good in spurts at other tournaments, though it was clear — at least by how he hit the ball — that he had his fastball all week. The process is to put good rounds together. Maybe the next step is putting good tournaments together.
In tennis terms, this would be a good time for a changeover. It's best to wait until the end of the year — or at least until August, the end of the majors — to figure out where Woods stands.
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