Tiger says he's strong enough to win U.S. Open

Tiger says he's strong enough to win U.S. Open
By: ESPN GOLF Posted On: June 11, 2024 View: 42

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Tiger Woods, who last made the cut at the U.S. Open in 2019, said Tuesday that he likes that this week's tournament will be played in Florida-like heat, which will help his surgically repaired back and right leg.

Weather forecasts call for temperatures in the upper 80s to mid-90s later this week with little chance of precipitation, which should help Woods stay loose.

"It's like home," said Woods, who lives in Jupiter, Florida. "Hot and humid is what we deal with every single day at home in Florida, so that's nothing new. It's just making sure that I keep hydrated and the mental tax that the heat will bring. It's going to bring it to all of us, not just me. Everyone is going to be tested."

Woods, 48, will be making his first appearance in the U.S. Open since missing the cut at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York in 2020.

"I feel like I have the strength to be able to do it," Woods said Tuesday, when asked if his body is good enough to compete and win. "It's just a matter of doing it. This golf course is going to test every single aspect of your game, especially mentally, and just the mental discipline that it takes to play this particular golf course, it's going to take a lot."

The 15-time major champion will make his third start in a U.S. Open played at Pinehurst No. 2. He tied for third in 1999 and finished second in 2005. He missed the most recent U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 while recovering from back surgery in 2014.

Woods will tee off at No. 10 at 7:29 a.m. ET in the first round with Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick. The trio will tee off at No. 1 at 1:14 p.m. ET in the second round.

Woods hasn't fared well in the majors since returning to competitive golf after he was seriously injured in a February 2021 car wreck. He finished 47th and 60th in the Masters in 2022 and this past April, respectively. He missed the cut or withdrew in four other starts in the Masters, PGA Championship and The Open.

In last month's PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, Woods missed the cut with a 36-hole total of 7-over 149. In his past 22 starts in majors, he missed the cut 10 times and withdrew twice.

In recent tournaments, Woods has been hurt by his short game, which had been one of his strengths during his Hall of Fame career. Since undergoing multiple surgeries on his right leg, Woods hasn't been able to play much golf outside of the majors. He said the lack of reps has left him searching for his feel around the greens.

His touch around the tricky green complexes at Pinehurst No. 2 will be even more important. Woods played a practice round at Pinehurst No. 2 on June 4 -- the first time he'd been back to the course since 2005.

"I did a little bit of work on chipping and putting, but nothing can simulate what we have here this particular week, the amount of little shots and the knobs and run-offs, and either using wedges or long irons or woods around the greens or even putter," Woods said.

"There's so many different shots that you really can't simulate unless you get on the property. That's one of the reasons I came up here last Tuesday, to be able to try and do that. Quite a bit of work. The golf course has firmed up and gotten faster since then. Even this week, even with the rain we had the other night, the golf course is still faster."

Woods spent much of Friday in New York, meeting with officials from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund about a potential investment in PGA Tour Enterprises, which could potentially reunite the fractured sport. PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan attended the meeting. Golfer Rory McIlroy called the 4½-hour session "very productive" and "very constructive."

McIlroy and Woods are part of the PGA Tour Enterprises' transaction subcommittee, which is negotiating with the PIF about a potential multi-billion-dollar investment.

"It was productive," Woods said. "And is there light at the end of the tunnel? I think we're closer to that point than we were pre-meeting. We discussed a lot of different endings and how we get there. I think that both sides walked away from the meeting, we all felt very positive in that meeting."

Later Tuesday, Woods was set to receive the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor from the USGA that recognizes his commitment to sportsmanship and respect for golf's traditions.

Woods is a nine-time USGA champion, winning three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateurs, three straight U.S. Amateurs, and then the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California (2000), Bethpage Black in New York (2002) and Torrey Pines (2008) outside San Diego.

Jones is regarded as the top amateur golfer of all-time, winning 13 major championships and completing the Grand Slam in 1930. After retiring from golf, he helped design Augusta National Golf Club and co-founded the Masters.

"Well, I think anytime you're in association with Mr. Jones, it's always incredible," Woods said. "What he did in his amateur career, winning the Ams and the Opens and then obviously creating Augusta National, the fact that I get a chance to be honored with his award tonight, it's very special."

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