Tiger Woods, welcome to the Peoples Open.
A vocal mass has followed golfs most public figure throughout his two practice rounds on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. And Mediates not the only Rocco on site this week.
The fans are definitely into it. A couple of times, youve got to remind them its only Tuesday or its only Monday, Woods said with a laugh at his Tuesday press conference.
For the first time, the U.S. Open is being contested at a truly public venue. And each and every day, a sell-out of 40,500 fans ' most all New Yorkers ' will be on park grounds to witness the historic event.
Theres already been a bit of bedlam. Sundays Buick Classic finale in nearby Westchester didnt draw nearly the crowd the Open experienced Monday (Monday!).
New Yorkers are characterized ' or perhaps stereotyped ' as being, lets say, enthusiastic, and, at times, abrasive. Woods has experienced such behavior already, and its only Tuesday (Tuesday!)
Some of the stuff I cant really repeat, it would be rated R, he said, smiling. Its really going to be interesting late in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, especially when the heat and humidity and beverage of their choice have taken effect.
But ' whether being politically correct or not ' Woods says he loves the boisterous crowd, so long as theyre courteous. And while the people may choose to treat Tiger well, the course itself seems less hospitable.
Its set up so difficult this week, he said.
Though Tigers not accustomed to playing public courses finagled in such a manner as this 7,214-yard monster, he is used to playing Joe Publics course.
Woods grew up on municipal courses in Southern California. He battered red-and-white-striped range balls off patches of brown material deemed grass like every other person who has worn a tee shirt and cut-offs to a course.
Thats where I really learned to play the game. I wasnt able to play country clubs. We didnt have the money, he said. And to be able to have an Open Championship, our countrys Open, have it on a public facility, thats tremendous.
Woods has now played three practice rounds at this facility ' two this week and one late last month ' and he said he feels pretty comfortable with the lay of the land.
This is Tigers first event since failing to win a fourth straight Memorial Tournament three weeks ago. And after a fortnight's worth of practice, he said hes also feeling pretty comfortable with every facet of my game right now.
Thats a frightening statement coming from the overwhelming tournament favorite.
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If there is one thing, however, that might brighten the spirits of his 155 opponents this week, its that Woods has never won a major championship on a par-70 course. Hes 0-for-8. But that statistic is misleading, says Woods, who believes the lack of two par-5s actually helps him.
I think it gives me more of an advantage, to be honest with you, because of a lot of the longer par-4s, he said, in reference to the courses four par-4s in excess of 475 yards. If I drive the ball in play, Im going to have shorter irons into the greens. When you get par-4s over 480 (yards), like they are here this week, you are going to have to be able to bring the ball in high. If Im driving the ball in play, I think I will be able to have a better chance of stopping the ball (on the greens).
Everyone knows, in a USGA event, you have to hit the fairway in order to have a reasonable chance to find the putting surface. And the farther you hit your drives, the shorter it is to the greens.
But Tiger has put the plan into victorious motion more times than just about any man in the history of the game.
The 26-year-old Woods is a seven-time United States Golf Association champion. He won three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur titles from 1991-93 and three straight U.S. Amateur titles from 94-96. In 2000, he set the 72-hole U.S. Open scoring record by shooting 12-under-par 272 ' winning by 15 strokes.
If he can win this week, he will tie Jack Nicklaus for second on the all-time USGA victory list (for a man), and move within one of Bobby Jones' record.
In order to do so, however, he will once again have to successfully undertake the toughest test in golf.
It takes a lot of energy out of you to play this championship and play it well and contend. It takes a lot out of you, he said. By the end of the week, youre pretty fried.
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