One thing that no longer concerns him, at least going into the opening round Thursday, is his health.
Woods revealed during the U.S. Open that he had a left elbow injury that was aggravated by hitting out of the thick rough at Merion. Doctors told him it was an elbow strain and recommended rest, forcing him to miss his title defense at Congressional and likely another start at The Greenbrier.
He has not competed since the U.S. Open, and while he says “everything is good to go,” he has played only nine holes each day.
“It’s one of the good things of taking the time off to let it heal and get the treatment and therapy on it,” he said. “The main reason was that coming over here the ground is going to be hard, obviously. And I’m going to need that elbow to be good. And just in case the rough was ... well, reports were it was going to be high and it was going to be lush. I needed to have this thing set and healed.”
It’s not that reports were exaggerated.
Ernie Els, the defending British Open champion and the last Open winner at Muirfield, returned to the course last month after winning in Germany.
“It was like this,” Els said, tapping the dark green cooler on the 13th tee. “And there was a bit of rain that day, so it was very green. The rough was thick. You could just hack it out. And then I get here two weeks later, and it’s this.”
He looked across a course that was a blend of yellow, wispy grass framing the fairways that were turning brown by the day. Most players prefer a brown links course because it’s running fast. Els didn’t buy that, not at Muirfield.