U.S. Open: Tiger Woods grateful to be back in field after multiple back surgeries

One year ago, Tiger Woods was recovering from his fourth back surgery and had just received the go-ahead from his doctors to begin walking. So he watched the U.S. Open from his couch and texted back and forth with his pals on the PGA Tour about how the course was playing.

Coming from that vantage point, Woods on Tuesday expressed his profound gratitude to be back in the field for the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. “There was really no expectation I would ever be here again,” Woods said during his media session. “I just got the OK to start walking last June. It was about my standard of life. Forget golf. That was the main goal.

“It was a bonus when they said, ‘Why don’t you go hit some putts today.’ A lot of this is a bonus because I didn’t know where I was. It’s a great feeling, and it’s one I don’t take for granted.”

The U.S. Open marks only the ninth appearance since Woods returned to the PGA Tour. He has one runner-up finish in the Valspar Championship, two top-10 finishes and six in the top 25. Under the circumstances, that is a promising start to what Woods admits is the final phase of his career. But he hasn’t won yet and was asked if that has been a source of consternation.

Again, Woods’ answer had a healthy dose of perspective. “There’s two ways to look at it,” he said. “I’ve given myself chances to win, which I didn’t know if I would ever do again. I’m also not happy I didn’t win, but I’m very thankful I had those opportunities because I didn’t know if I’d ever have them again.”

At the Memorial, Woods went low in the second and third rounds only to falter in the final round. Commenting on the telecast of the event he runs, Jack Nicklaus said he felt winning again was a matter of time for Woods but he needs to get used to the feeling of being in contention once again.

“I was very excited to get back in the mix at Valspar,” Woods said. “I felt very calm. It felt familiar because I’ve been there so many times. At the same time, I’d like to get there more times.”

It has been an unfathomable 10 years since Woods last won a major at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he played with a torn ACL and a fractured leg and still won in an 18-hole playoff with Rocco Mediate on Monday. Asked if the pressure would multiply if he finally has a shot to win his 15th major on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, Woods said that only would be natural.

“It’s a major,” Woods said. “Mistakes are magnified. It’s natural there would be extra pressure. It would be a nice problem to have, and I’m hopeful I can do that.”

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