Is Tiger Woods back to his pre-scandal levels? On the surface it would appear so. Tiger is back to No. 1 in the world and is the frontrunner to be named the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2013 with four wins already.
However, Tiger can’t officially be called “back” until he wins another major championship. It’s in majors where Tiger judges himself, and he has remained stuck at 14 major victories since winning the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods is the overwhelming 9-2 betting favorite to win the 113th U.S. Open, which tees off Thursday at Merion Golf Club’s East Course outside of Philadelphia.
This won’t be one of those U.S. Opens where the winner finishes over par as Webb Simpson did a year ago at Olympic Club outside San Francisco. Merion is a short track, measuring only 6,996 yards. Heavy rains over the weekend will help soften the course and thus improve scoring conditions. It’s the fifth time the course has hosted a U.S. Open and first since 1981, when David Graham won at 7-under to become the first Australian to win a U.S. Open.
Tiger won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines essentially on one leg, beating Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole Monday playoff. The U.S. Open is the only major to stage an 18-hole playoff. That was Tiger’s third U.S. Open triumph — he has also been runner-up twice — and he joined Jack Nicklaus as the only golfers to win each of the four majors at least three times.
That Tiger has a top-five finish this week is even money. His last top five at the U.S. Open was in 2010. He held the 36-hole lead last year but struggled on the weekend and finished tied for 21st. Woods enters off a shocking 8-over 296 at the Memorial Tournament and a 65th-place finish in an event he had won a record five times. It was easily Tiger’s worst PGA Tour result of the year and one of his highest scores anywhere in his career.
Tiger will be paired with Rory McIlroy and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott for the first two rounds. The latter two are 20-1 second-favorites to win along with Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. Woods and world No. 2 McIlroy have played together seven times on the PGA Tour and Tiger has shot a better round than McIlroy in six of those. McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional with a record-setting 16-under 268 total.
World No. 3 Scott was paired with Woods and Mickelson in the first two rounds back at the 2008 U.S. Open. Scott became the first Australian to win a green jacket in April at Augusta. Scott’s best U.S. Open career finish was 15th last year.
This post is presented by Bovada.