Golf

Why is Tiger Woods favourite for the US PGA Championship at Bethpage?

It was ever thus but after his victory at the Masters last month the fascination with all things Woods cranked up another degree.

Now the golf world knows he can still win Major Championships the anticipation that he can pull off another glorious triumph is founded on fact not fantasy.

At a Long Island course where he won the US Open in 2002 and tied sixth in 2009 he has inviting history, but his positioning as favourite with some bookmakers is going overboard.

The unforgiving rough this week means anyone with ambitions of winning the Wanamaker Trophy has to keep the ball in play off the tee. That has never been Woods’s strong suit.

Tiger Woods has not played competitively in the five weeks since winning his 15th Major. If there is rust to be shaken of – and there is – Bethpage is not the place to do it.

This track will punish him if he is a fraction off line in a way that Augusta National would never dream of.

The long break was not what Woods planned but it became a necessity given the mental and physical strain the Masters win imposed. His response to the exertions of that week was a reminder than he is 43 not 23.

His back may be holding up after the spinal fusion operation which saved his career but he cannot practice as much as he used to and now takes Tuesdays off in tournament weeks to preserve his energy levels.

Woods being Woods, he remains capable of rising to the occasion. As well as being an all-time great golfer, he is an all-time great golf strategist and his willingness to play the long game will be an advantage on a course where everyone is going to have to take their medicine at some point or another.

But where experience and knowhow were great allies at Augusta they will only take Woods so far at a venue where power and accuracy off the tee will count double this week.

Woods, back at Pebble Beach for next month’s US Open? Maybe. Woods, at Bethpage for the US PGA? Unlikely.

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