SportsPulse: Tiger Woods’ last win at a major was 10 years ago, but USA TODAY Sports’ Steve DiMeglio thinks Tiger can end that decade-long drought at the U.S. Open in Shinnecock Hills.
USA TODAY Sports
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — With two tranquil 9-hole practice rounds that stretched into the evening, first with Jordan Spieth on Sunday, then with Steve Stricker on Monday, Tiger Woods eased his way into the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
Another trek Tuesday morning on the front nine, this time with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, the winners of the past two PGA Tour titles, was another undisturbed work session for Woods as he prepares to play in the U.S. Open for the first time since missing the cut in 2015.
“I’ve missed playing the U.S. Open. It’s our nation’s title,” said Woods, who has won said titles in 2000, 2002 and 2008. “This will be another fun test.”
All has been quiet on the Woods front except for the din Privacy has generated. That’s the name of his multimillion-dollar, 155-foot yacht that is docked nearby and been at the forefront of many reports. The anchored home provides comfort and convenience for Woods and basically eliminates his concern to beat the traffic that has clogged the roadways and heightened tensions among his boat-less peers who have struggled to get to the course.
“Staying on the dinghy helps,” Woods said Tuesday with a big smile.
Woods has nicely settled into his surroundings for the week and quickly reacquainted himself with Shinnecock, where he withdrew with a wrist injury as an amateur in the 1995 U.S. Open and finished in a tie for 17th in the 2004 U.S. Open. A two-day reconnaissance trip three weeks ago was his first glimpse at the renovated layout, where 10 new tees have been added since 2004, 500 trees removed and the rough around the greens shaved away.
Those days were wet and the course was damp, however, so Woods didn’t get a true taste for the place. Through three days this week, he has.
“It’s a lot longer,” Woods said. “The fairways seem to be about twice as wide. It’s a very different test, very different look. And as the golf course dries out, this golf course is going to be another great U.S. Open test.”
It will be a brutal test for Woods if he can’t get his putter working. While he’s contended late on Sunday in five of his nine starts, with a tie for second in the Valspar Championship and a tie for fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational his best finishes, one piece or another of the puzzle has been missing in his latest comeback since spinal fusion surgery in April last year.
Early in the year the driver was giving him fits. Then his short irons failed him. Then his putter went AWOL.
“There’s always something,” said Woods. “Hopefully, this is one of those weeks where I put it all together and even it out, and we’ll see what happens.”
Nothing much happened on the greens for Woods in his last start, a tie for 23rd in the Memorial two weeks ago. He was tied for the lead late in the third round before the shortest club in the bag caused the largest problems. While he was statistically the best player from tee to green, he missed seven putts inside 5 feet, the most he’s missed in an event since the ShotLink era began in 2004. He had five three-putts and 118 putts.
“I worked on it pretty hard this past week,” he said. “Just had to hit a lot of putts, just put in the legwork. My stroke feels good, and we’re back on old bumpy Poa (greens). So hopefully hit good solid putts and see what happens.”
He was on Poa greens the last time he won a major, the epic triumph in the 2008 U.S. Open in San Diego. This week’s U.S. Open will be the 40th major since Woods won his last. He has played in 25, with nine top-10s, but missed 14 due to injury.
“What I did at Memorial, I just didn’t feel comfortable over it. I couldn’t see my lines,” Woods said of his play two weeks ago. “And those greens were quick, and I just didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t hit many good putts. I hit a lot of bad ones.
“This is a different week, different setup, different grass. This is what I basically grew up on out there on the West Coast. Poa gets bumpy, and it requires a lot of patience. A lot of times you can hit great putts on Poa, and it doesn’t go in. The key is to hit putts solid and see what happens.”