Tiger Tuning Up for Shinnecock


Tiger Woods, fresh off his third-place finish at The Memorial, is skipping this week's Buick Classic - as is his customary pre-major schedule - to sharpen his game heading into the Open at Shinnecock Hills.
The world's No. 1 player will be in search of his ninth major overall and his first since his victory over Phil Mickelson at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in New York.
'I'm very excited about the way I'm playing. I've done well in my last three starts, and hopefully that good play will carry over to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club,' said Woods on his website.
'I'll spend this week fine-tuning my game, but I know I'm on the right track. I proved that last week at the Memorial Tournament, where I finished third. Although I didn't win, I hit a lot of quality shots, and my hard work paid off,' said Woods. 'I've been feeling my swing come together at each and every tournament and have had no hiccups this spring.'
Although Tiger has had major success in the New York area, his history at Shinnecock Hills has not been particularly pleasant. His last experience of the venue was as an amateur back in the 1995 U.S. Open, where he was forced to withdraw during the second round due to a wrist injury.
He has, however, planned a practice round sometime this week to get a better feel for the tour's second major championship of the year.
Despite ongoing rumblings of a slump, Woods certainly sees things differently as he continues to try and keep both Ernie Els and Vijay Singh from his No. 1 world ranking.
'I keep telling people my game is close, but apparently some don't believe me, said Woods. 'Unless you watch me hit shots every day, it's impossible to understand how much progress I've made. I felt very comfortable with my driver at the Memorial, and the rest of my game is coming around.
'In short, I've been making baby steps. Slow and steady progress. When you change things, it doesn't happen over night.'
Due to the enormous success he has had over the past seven years, only Tiger could be ranked No. 1, be fourth on the money list and have three top-4 finishes in his last three starts and still have to answer questions about the state of his game.
Ranked fifth in scoring average, third amongst the putting leaders and second to Mickelson in the birdie category, Woods is wise enough to see something much more important than statistics coming into the Open.
'I've said this before and I'll say it again, the key to winning a U.S. Open is patience, patience, patience. You know the set-up will be tough, and the tournament will test every part of your game,' said Woods, who won his first U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000. 'I've won two U.S. Opens, so I don't have a problem with that. That's just the way it is. It's hard but fair.'
A win at the Open would instantly quiet all the discussion about his play, even though Woods himself admitted to having his share of up-and-downs so far in his 2004 PGA Tour campaign.
'If I had to sum up the first half of the PGA Tour season, I'd say it has been both good as well as frustrating,' said Woods. 'I haven't won as much as I would have liked and haven't quite hit the ball as well as I wanted, but the great thing is I'm putting as well as I ever have, probably better than 2000. The problem is, a lot of them have been for pars!'
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