Dublin: Tiger Woods is the defending champion at Memorial and a four-time winner at Muirfield Village. It just doesn`t seem that way.
He arrived at the course that Jack Nicklaus built – the one that Woods at times seems to own -- with his game as unpredictable at ever. Woods is coming off a neck injury that he said now feels good enough to practice and play. He no longer has a swing coach, having split with Hank Haney three weeks ago, and has no plans to find another one anytime soon.
Since returning to golf in April, he has completed only one tournament, a tie for fourth in The Masters. That takes on even greater significance with the US Open at Pebble Beach only two weeks away.
"Maybe this time I`ll get four rounds in and get ready for the Open," Woods said yesterday.
He remains as capable as ever, and Woods wasted no time showing that in the Memorial Skins Game. Playing in the second group of five players, he hit a towering shot out of the right rough behind a tree on the 10th hole to about 18 feet and rolled in the quick putt for a birdie to win a skin.
Next up came the par-5 11th, where he followed a pure tee shot with a 4-iron to just outside 4 feet for eagle.
Easy game, right?
Everything else has been a struggle, starting with the upheaval in his personal life, seeping into his game.
When last seen in public, Woods leaned his head against the locker at the TPC Sawgrass, eyes closed and looking lost, after withdrawing from the final round of The Players Championship with what he feared was a bulging disc. Turns out it was inflammation of a joint in his neck, which he treated with massage, anti-inflammatory medicine and rest.
"My neck feels pretty good," he said. "Still not where I want it to be, but the inflammation has calmed down. I`ve got a range of motion again. It`s a little bit sore after a good, hard day of practice. But I can recover for the next day, which is good."
As for the coach? Woods doesn`t feel as though he needs one.
Even when he left Butch Harmon sometime in 2003, he had been friends with Haney through Mark O`Meara, and they often discussed swing thoughts and strategy even before they began working together.
Now, Woods` coach is a video monitor.
"That`s the great thing about technology," Woods said.
He`ll find out what kind of swing he brings to the course when the Memorial gets under way with some compelling story lines, not all of them involving Woods.