Baker-Finch: Tiger will get a grip

Write Tiger Woods off at your peril this summer. That’s the message Australian great Ian Baker-Finch made loud and clear during an exclusive interview with Golfer Pacific this month.

Not many golf followers are more qualified to pass comment on Woods than our very own 1991 British Open champion.

Ian Baker-Finch Ian Baker-Finch

‘Finchy’ has spent the last 12 years keeping close tabs on the world No.1 through his commentary commitments in the United States and was the man to give Woods directions during last year’s Australian Masters at Kingston Heath, where he partnered the star-spangled American for a practice round before watching him march on to claim the gold jacket in emphatic fashion.

But while Tiger has taken a battering around the world for his abnormal form slump, Baker-Finch said it could only be a matter of weeks before we see trademark Tiger back winning again – just in time for his return trip Down Under.

“I think Tiger will be ready for Melbourne and the Australian Masters as he will be working hard on his game leading in to the event and will love the (Victoria Golf Club) course which will assist in him being focused for the tournament,” Baker-Finch told Golfer Pacific from his US home.

“He is definitely still the major drawcard and will over-deliver again, I’m sure.”

With his much publicised divorce with Elin Nordegren no doubt playing on his mind, Woods sunk to levels he had never experienced before on the course.

Record high four-round totals, failing to automatically qualify for the American Ryder Cup team for the first time since his reign on the world game and a Major-less year on Tour in 2010 didn’t make for good reading.

And Woods was so far down in the FedEx Cup standings last month he was actually one spot behind 50-year-old US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin.

Thankfully the skipper selected Woods as one of his four wildcards, meaning the normally unflappable Woods still had a pulse in the face of some trying times that seriously threatened his future.

Baker-Finch was adamant time will be the best healer for the war-stricken Woods.

“He’ll be back (to his best) when he can concentrate fully on his golf and has dealt with his divorce,” Baker-Finch said.

“Tiger’s mentally drained for sure. He has had a lot to deal with but can now concentrate on his golf again.”

Baker-Finch said the next step for Tiger was working out a new coaching structure to help him regain some confidence, but admitted he may never find the aura that saw him become the most intimidating figure in the sport’s fierce history.

“He has to work out who his next coach will be and refocus on his game,” Baker-Finch said.

“I do not think Tiger will be as formidable because he has lost the intimidation edge with the other players, but I do think his game can be as solid as ever with his desire and work ethic.”

But has the great man blown his chance to chase down Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors? Baker-Finch doesn’t think so.

“I think Tiger will surpass Jack’s record of 18 professional Majors. He’s only 34 and in great shape physically so he has at least 10 more good years to win five Majors or more.”

Melbourne – you’ve been warned.