Peace plan: When Tiger has it, as he did at the 2006 British Open, he’s unbeatable

When Tiger Woods last lifted Claret Jug in 2006, he felt a "surreal" calmness.

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If Royal Liverpool was bittersweet for Tiger Woods eight years ago, the passage of time has turned it into a place that brings back happy memories.

"It meant a lot to me in my life at the time," Woods said on Tuesday of his triumph at the 2006 Open Championship here. "That was a very emotional week."

Early in 2006, Woods knew his father and mentor, Earl, did not have long to live. He desperately wanted to give him one last major championship.

"I pressed pretty hard at Augusta that year, trying to win it, because it was the last time my dad was ever going to see me play a major championship," Woods recalled.

Woods couldn’t deliver at that Masters; he beat everyone but Phil Mickelson.

Earl Woods died a month later.

Tiger was clearly still grieving at the U.S. Open.

"Missed the cut there miserably," he recalled. "And then came here and just felt at peace. I really, really played well."

It was the first time the Open had returned to Hoylake in 39 years, and Woods commemorated the occasion by holding off Chris DiMarco to win by two shots before collapsing into the arms of his then-caddie, Steve Williams.

"On Sunday, I felt calm out there. It was surreal at the time," he said. "I really felt that my dad was with me. It was like having my 15th club. I felt that type of peace when I was out there.

"I’ve had a few moments like that in majors where I’ve felt that way on a Sunday."


Woods was asked if he could put his finger on why he felt like that.

"If I knew, I’d do it all the time. But it just happens," he said. "Maybe because I was in control of my game. The times I’ve had it, I’ve really played well. Everything was working. I think that in ’97 at Augusta I had it going pretty good. 2000 at the both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship, I had it going pretty good, as well. And that year in ’06 was the same."

Times, of course, have changed.

"As a person, I’ve gone through a lot; the loss of a parent and having two kids," he said.

Woods never speaks of his 2009 scandal or his subsequent divorce, but he acknowledged that "life is very different than it was then."

And then he returns to where he’s more comfortable, the subject of golf.

"I’ve got a completely different golf swing than I did in ’06. A lot of aspects of my game and life have changed."

Not all of them for the better.

His major drought has now entered a seventh year, and then there are the injuries, the latest of which required back surgery in March.

Woods missed the Masters and U.S. Open and is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle here after arriving with just one start, a missed cut at the Quicken Loans National two weeks ago.

"It’s getting better," Woods said of his recovery. "I’ve gotten stronger since (missing the cut at the Quicken Loans National), I’ve gotten more explosive. I’m only going to get stronger and faster."

He said he was buoyed by the fact that he’s faced a similar battle before.

"If you remember in ’08, I had knee surgery right after the Masters," he said. "I didn’t play more than nine holes, and the Sunday before the U.S. Open I didn’t break 50 for nine holes and was still able to win it in a playoff, with an ACL (injury) and a broken leg.

"I’ve proven I can do it, it’s just a matter of putting my game and giving myself the best chances this week to miss the ball in the correct spots, to be aggressive when I can, and obviously to hole putts."

He may not be the betting favorite this week –€“ for one of the few times in his career –€“ but not everyone is writing him off.

"I guarantee you that these players looking at these new electronic scoreboards are going to be looking for Tiger Woods’s name," said Tom Watson. "Just put it this way, I wouldn’t write off Tiger Woods for a long time, the way he plays the game.

"He’s a tough competitor. He knows how to swing the golf club. And, yes, he’s had some injuries and other things, issues, but the thing is, he’s had a long career, and I fully expect it to be a longer career."

Certainly, Woods’ expectations of himself haven’t changed.

"First," he replied.

And if that were to happen, it would be every bit as emotional –€“ for different reasons –€“ as his victory here eight years ago.