WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS (West Virginia) • Nick Faldo has all but written off Tiger Woods as a contender at this month's British Open, concluding that the 14-time golf Major champion's swing is still faltering under pressure.
Faldo, whose six Major titles included a five-stroke romp at St Andrews in 1990, made the observation as Woods battled to a mediocre one-over 71 in the third round of the Greenbrier Classic on Saturday.
Although Woods showed improvement last week, he also hit some wild drives, usually to the right on holes that required an accurate tee shot to avoid big trouble.
"When Tiger is under pressure, (his swing) is a completely different speed," Briton Faldo said, while commentating for CBS TV.
"There are plenty of pressure tee shots at St Andrews to avoid the gorse and put it in the right places. Under pressure, he doesn't like certain shots and he's unable to deal with them.
A DIFFERENT BALL GAME
"Under pressure, he doesn't like certain shots and he's unable to deal with them. That is the mind game. Puts him under pressure and then the tempo is completely different.''
NICK FALDO, six-time Major champion, who finds the former world No. 1 is dipping his head too much on the downswing
"That is the mind game. Puts him under pressure and then the tempo is completely different."
Woods, 39, has won two of his three British Opens at St Andrews, in 2000 and 2005. But he has not won a Major since 2008 and only four weeks ago shot the worst score of his career, an 85 in the third round at the Memorial tournament.
After missing the cut by a wide margin at the US Open, he showed glimpses of his old self in West Virginia and stood just four strokes behind the leaders at the halfway mark before slipping on Saturday.
The improvement, however, was clearly not enough to impress Faldo, who also said Woods was dipping his head way too far on the downswing.
"The head loss of height is unbelievable," said the Englishman, who enjoyed his greatest success after rebuilding his swing in the middle of his career.
"We keep ranting on about it but it is holding him back."
While Woods had fallen seven strokes off the pace by the end of the third round, his fellow American Jason Bohn carded a nine-under 61 to join the log-jam at the top of the leaderboard and came within two shots of the course-record 59 held by Stuart Appleby.
The 42-year-old two-time PGA Tour winner, who launched his pro career in 1992 when he received US$1 million (S$1.35 million) for a hole-in-one, finished long before the halfway leaders had even teed off, and his performance was good enough to end the day locked with compatriots Bryce Molder (67) and Sean O'Hair (66), and South Korean Park Sung Joon (66) at 11-under 199.
"I had some benign conditions this morning and hit a lot of good shots and made a lot of putts, so it was great," Bohn told CBS.
"A lot of my putts didn't have a lot of break to them. I didn't really have that many difficult putts."
He is motivated by more than thoughts of victory at the Greenbrier. The top-four finishers not already exempt for the British Open at St Andrews will earn a late ticket to the Major championship in two weeks.
"There is nothing like it anywhere in the world, the fans, the town, the golf course," Bohn said. "I want to play there and want to play there really bad." REUTERS