Notes Tiger vs Lefty in Set Up

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PINEHURST, N.C. -- Padraig Harrington assessed his game as ``shabby'' heading into the U.S. Open. In other words, he's right on course for a good week.
 
As is his custom, the 33-year-old Irishman found himself struggling a bit Tuesday, hoping to cram in enough work before the first round to contend again in this event. He has three top 10s in seven previous starts.
 
``I'm the sort of person that on a Tuesday is kind of trying to gather everything together,'' Harrington said. ``I always look to my weaknesses before I start a tournament and try and get them up to strengths. That's always the same feeling every tournament, certainly every major, is that I'd like another week.''

Not that he would change anything.
 
``Yeah, I've won when I've played shabby nearly every event,'' Harrington said. ``I usually play very well when I'm in that form.''
 
His season started off well enough, with his first PGA Tour victory coming in the Honda Classic. Since then, he's fallen into a bit of funk, and a tie for ninth in New Orleans is his best effort in five starts since. Harrington missed the cut last week at the Booz Allen Classic.
 
Still, he would like nothing more than to become the first European to win the Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
 
``To be honest, the courses in Europe are being set up with about 22-, 24-yard fairways like this and the rough is intended to be heavier than it is here,'' Harrington said. ``You know it's going to happen sooner or later. We're going to get a few wins in the U.S. Open.''
 
DIFFERENT STROKES
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson take different approaches to their preparations for majors. Both seem to work.
 
Much as Jack Nicklaus did in his prime, Woods prefers to take the previous week off and practice. Mickelson usually plays in a tournament to get himself ready, believing he'll concentrate better the next week.
 
``I think it's a matter of personal preference,'' Mickelson said. ``I found that playing the week before, I was in a better frame of mind competitively, fresh and sharp, and when Thursday comes, I've only had three days of competitive golf off, as opposed to 10 or 11. So that seems to get me a little more focused on the round at hand.''
 
Last week, Mickelson finished in a tie for 29th at the Booz Allen Classic at Congressional Country Club, while Woods spent the time in Pinehurst. And the way Woods sees it, committing to a tournament might deprive him of a chance to get better, even if he has to travel halfway across the country to see swing coach Hank Haney.
 
``I think it's a personal preference, because I know if I play a tournament, if you get a rain delay and get rained out, I mean, there goes a whole day of practice,'' Woods said. ``I can always either practice at home, (and) if there's rain coming, I can fly to Dallas and practice in Dallas with Hank. If you play a tournament, you're locked in.''
 
THE HEAT IS ON
With temperatures in the mid-90s with high humidity, the weather was quite steamy Tuesday at No. 2. It's supposed to be just as warm Wednesday, with cooler temperatures expected by the weekend.
 
Either way, it won't be a problem for Chris DiMarco, who endured similar conditions last week at the Booz Allen along with the rest of the field.
 
``It couldn't be any hotter than it was last week,'' he said. ``You just have to stay hydrated. I think I drank a bottle of water a hole last week, and I didn't go to the bathroom once. It was sweating out of you. You just deal with it.''
 
DiMarco has dealt with the pressure that comes with a major very well in the past year, losing in playoffs in the past two. He hasn't won on tour since 2002 but still is having one of his best seasons -- he's seventh on the money list.
 
And not even a stiff neck slowed him down. When he arrived at the Wachovia Championship in May, he nearly was forced to withdraw with the injury, but he was able to compete. The pain eventually subsided, and he pronounced himself fit for the Open.
 
``It actually helped me,'' DiMarco said. ``I used to crack my neck all the time, and since that week, I haven't had to crack it. I was always worried I was going to snap my spinal cord, so I don't worry about that anymore.''
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

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