x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Tiger Woods gets back on course in time for US Open

Three-time champion looks for momentum as he comes into competition on back of Memorial success.

Tiger Woods hits out of the sand during a US Open warm-up practice round at the Olympic Club.
Tiger Woods hits out of the sand during a US Open warm-up practice round at the Olympic Club.

Tiger Woods has not won a major title in four years, but the former world No 1 oozed a steely confidence at the Olympic Club yesterday while preparing for this week's US Open.

Boosted by his 73rd PGA Tour victory at the Memorial tournament two weeks ago, Woods is happy with his game and returns to a course he knows very well from his student days at Stanford University.

"It feels good," the three-time US Open champion said. "I'm looking forward to it. I've played the golf course now a couple of times and it's quick out there.

"I'm excited about playing, excited about this golf course. I've played a lot here in college and it's great to be back."

For the second time this year, Woods, 36, comes into a major championship fresh from a PGA Tour win but he feels much more confident this week than he did before the Masters in April.

"When I went into Augusta, I did not feel comfortable hitting the ball up," he said. "And I got back into a lot of my old patterns. Unfortunately, it didn't work out.

"That's what made playing Muirfield [for the Memorial tournament] so nice, that I had those shots and I was doing it the correct way. I had compression and I was hitting the ball high and hitting it long. That was fun."

Two weeks before the Masters, Woods romped to victory by five shots at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but he struggled at Augusta National, recording his worst performance in the year's opening major since he turned professional.

Woods closed with a 74 at the Masters, failing to break 72 in any of his four rounds.

However, he seemed to be back to his best at Muirfield Village, ending a week of superlative ball-striking with a five-under-par 67 to triumph by two shots.

Woods, who played eight holes in practice with his former university friend Casey Martin early yesterday, will certainly need high-quality ball-striking this week at Olympic's challenging Lake Course.

"You have to curve it more off the tees here than any other golf course that we play," the 14-time major champion said. "You've got right-to-left slopes of fairways and greens, and you have to cut it, so you're going against the grain."

Fellow Americans Stewart Cink and Davis Love III also painted a picture of the difficult task facing the field when competition gets underway tomorrow.

The relatively small greens, fickle winds, likely fog and heavy sea air will produce problems, but one of the biggest talking points among the players is the number of dogleg fairways which slant in an opposite direction.

"The main challenge at Olympic is hitting the fairways which generally cant the opposite way to the angle of the doglegs," said Cink, the 2009 British Open champion.

"That's what makes it difficult and it's so important to try to hit every fairway."

Love, who missed the cut when the US Open was last played at Olympic, in 1998, agreed.

"So many fairways at Olympic have so much tilt to them," the winner of the 1997 PGA Championship said. "It's just hard to fit the ball on the fairway.

"If the fairways are firm at all, the ball seems to run out of them a lot and then, if you're not in the fairway, you're not going to get close to the hole on those greens.

"So hitting fairways there is a premium."


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