Sir Nick Faldo believes expectations surrounding Tiger Woods should be taken down “a notch or two” ahead of the US PGA Championship.
Woods won his 15th major title, and a first for 11 years, in last month’s Masters, reviving his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major victories and seeing him installed as the favourite at Bethpage, where he led from start to finish in the 2002 US Open.
However, Faldo feels the hype should be kept in check due to lingering questions over Woods’ health after four back operations and the difference in conditions between the feared Black Course at Bethpage and Augusta National.
“I think our expectations have to come down a notch or two anyway because of the weather, the temperature change for me is important, and how he will cope with getting out of the rough,” Faldo said in a conference call to promote his employer CBS Sports’ coverage of the event.
“For me that is going to be his major battle. If he hits it in the rough at Bethpage Black he will not be able to scramble like he did at Augusta National. It won’t be US Open hay but if it’s good old three or four inches, wet and a little bit colder, that will be significant enough.
“Augusta is the perfect place for him to win more majors. The future of the other ones I’m not 100 per cent sure of. Who knows how well the back will hold up? That’s the real bottom line.
“When he came into a press conference he did a couple of weeks ago he was limping and wasn’t walking well. He’s said he can’t practice as hard, especially his putting, because he can’t hold himself in that position. The back will rule how competitive he can be.”
Woods has not played competitively since his emotional Masters triumph, but the 43-year-old has been seen practising at Bethpage in splendid isolation before a sell-out crowd descends on the course on New York’s Long Island.
“The atmosphere is going to be manic,” six-time major winner Faldo added. “I can imagine we are going to be in a buzz from the moment he steps on the ground until hopefully late Sunday evening.
“But we’ve gone five weeks between the two majors and he hasn’t played competitive golf since Augusta. Now he has to come out and pick up and come out where he left off there. We know he is amazing but that to me is a tall order.
“As you get older you need to play for tournament sharpness, for your mind and for club selection. You need to play competitively somewhere between the majors to loosen things up and see where your game is. He’s not making it easy on himself with nothing competitive between the two majors.”
– Press Association