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Tiger Woods, Steve Williams
When they practice on a links course like at St. Andrews, Tiger Woods and caddie Steve Williams make sure they're aware of all the different lines. (Getty Images)

Williams: Tiger's expectations never change

In 2005, Tiger Woods became the youngest and fastest player to win all four major championships twice when he captured the Open Championship at St. Andrews, where he defeated Colin Montgomerie by five strokes. Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, sat down with PGATOUR.COM's Brian Wacker about the state of Woods' game as he returns to the home of golf for the 138th Open Championship.

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
 
What’s the state of Tiger’s game as he returns to St. Andrews?

The one part of Tiger’s game this year that has been very sub-standard is his putting. He hasn’t putted well in any of his events. The key to playing well at St. Andrews is putting. The greens are very generous so you don’t miss that many greens. The practice rounds will be paramount in spending a lot of time on the greens getting a feel for lagging putts. You can have a lot of 40-, 60-, 80-foot putts there and if you complete the week without a three-putt, you’re going to be near the lead.

What are your expectations for him this week and this season; have they been tempered at all?

Expectations never change. When you enter a tournament, you’re trying to win the tournament. What’s been different this year is his form hasn’t been that great. I can see it’s been a lot more difficult for him to turn it around during a tournament. Obviously that back nine was brilliant Saturday at the U.S. Open, but outside of that it’s been a bit of a struggle. But you never change your expectations. The idea is to get in contention on the back nine on Sunday.

How close is he to doing that?

When you can start holing a few putts that can change your whole confidence and the way you see the course. When you know you’re putting well that turns everything around. When he can have a good week and start putting well that will turn the whole year around.

Tiger has been renowned throughout his career as being such a great putter; how frustrating has it been that his putting has been sub-standard?

Putting is the key element -- that’s the difference between winning and not winning and Tiger has had a lot of ups and downs with his putter. He’s renowned as a good putter based on the fact that he holes a lot of putts when you have to, but there’s been no consistency in his putting. It’s been poor in every tournament he’s played. It has been frustrating, no two ways about it. But he loves to play St. Andrews, he knows how to play the golf course, he knows links style golf and he knows what he has to do to perform well. I’ve made it very clear to him what he has to do and that the onus is going to be on putting.

At the AT&T National, Tiger missed 15 putts inside 10 feet, including a couple of short ones. That’s unusual for him.

The greens at St. Andrews, with the exception of a couple of greens, are very flat. When you’re playing on fast greens, you tend to miss a lot more putts. When you’re playing at St. Andrews, you can adjust your putting and hit higher up on the ball to get it rolling -- just doing little things like that will make a difference. You can have a lot of putts on fast greens from 15 feet, but you know if you have a run-out, you can hit it a considerable distance past the hole. That thought never comes into play St. Andrews. You have to putt with authority there.

What have your conversations been with Tiger this year? Is the golf something you work on together after his rounds or is that something he does on his own?

One of the things I do is keep a very detailed dialogue of Tiger’s stats -- more than what you’d find on ShotLink. We know the parts of the game he needs to work on. His game hasn’t been up to stretch, but he’s well aware of each area and what he needs to work on.

So how does he turn his putting around?

The last time we went to St. Andrews in 2005, we’d just come off finishing second at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and basically that tournament was given away. Tiger had a great chance of victory and his putting let him down on the back nine. We went to St. Andrews and in every practice round he didn’t hit one chip shot; he just kept putting and putting. Not three-putting comes down to speed. If you get on the greens and have a wonderful feel for the speed, you start making putts. That’s what we’ll be working on.

What’s your overall preparation for an Open Championship compared to other majors? How is it different?

It’s not really any different. St. Andrews is a course I’ve caddied a lot on. We do the same sort of program for all four majors. When you play a links course, you just have to make sure you’re aware of all the lines. For instance, when the wind blows one direction, you play the course one way. When it blows from another direction, you play it a different way. It’s a real thinking man’s game of chess, whereas when you play a course in the States, you play the course the same way every day.

Why does Tiger play so well at St. Andrews?

When you go to St. Andrews -- just the fact that it’s known as the home of golf, the setting, the clubhouse, the road hole, I think it invigorates players to play well. The people who go watch the golf tournament there are the best golf fans in the world. That really puts you in the mood to play golf.

A lot was made of Tiger coming back to Florida after the J.P. McManus pro-am, but that was the plan all along wasn’t it?

The last few years, Tiger has just gone over the weekend before and done his normal preparation. A few years back, he played a few rounds in Ireland but, yes, that was his plan all along and he stuck to it.

Tiger has gone through difficult times on and off the course before. How difficult has this season been and can he turn it around?

The circumstances of 2010 are obviously well-publicized and that’s made it very difficult. I understand Tiger has got a lot of problems -- from a caddie perspective, you have to stand by your player and help him through these situations. When you caddie for someone like Tiger, you come to expect a lot of good things. I’m used to seeing a lot of good golf. When you’re not seeing that for an extended period of time and not seeing a lot of improvement, that’s what’s frustrating. But there’s still some golf to be played. If you ask me that question at the end of the year, I could probably give you a more authoritative answer. The year’s not done yet -- we still have two majors, some very good tournaments and the FedExCup. I’m hoping St. Andrews is a place that will spark things and turn the year around. 

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