Scale of difficulty few can match

Scale of difficulty few can match

NEW YORK • Tiger Woods returns to the US Open at Winged Foot this week with a score to settle against a course he regards as one of the three toughest in the world.

During more than a decade of dominance between Woods’ first Major victory in 1997 and his 14th Major at the 2008 US Open, the former world No. 1 played in 46 consecutive Majors.

That streak of 46 events had only one missed cut – the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot, where he carded back-to-back 76s for a 12-over total.

Woods, who collected the 15th Major of his career at last year’s Masters, is preparing for another demanding assignment at the par-70 course, playing 7,477 yards.

“It’s up there next to Oakmont and Carnoustie as far as sheer difficulty without doing anything to it,” said the three-time US Open champion of the New York course, where the winning score has been under par just once in the previous four times it has been the host.

Woods is one of 15 players in the 144-strong field who featured at Winged Foot 14 years ago, but dismissed suggestions that experience would provide an edge as the “course has changed a lot since then”.

But the 44-year-old, who scouted Winged Foot ahead of last month’s Northern Trust in Boston, is convinced that the course remains as brutal as ever.

“The winning scores here have never traditionally been very low. I don’t see that changing this week,” said Woods,

The American is looking for his first top-10 finish since the sport returned in June after being suspended for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His last victory came at the Zozo Championship in Japan last October when he equalled Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins.

    1ST ROUND TEE TIMES

    USA unless stated

    7.23pm (Singapore time)

    Jazz Janewattananond (Tha),

    7.45pm Henrik Stenson (Swe), Danny Willett (Eng)

    7.56pm Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia (Esp), Webb Simpson, Jason Day (Aus)

    8.07pm Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy (Nir), Adam Scott (Aus), Justin Rose (Eng)

    TOMORROW

    12.54am Im Sung-jae (Kor)

    1.16am Dustin Johnson

    1.27am Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm (Esp)

    1.38am Rickie Fowler

    1.49am An Byeong-hun (Kor)

“The golf course is going to be hard. It depends on how difficult they want to set up these pins, give us a chance at it.”

The American is grouped with compatriots and fellow Major champions Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa on the opening two days.

World No. 3 Thomas played two rounds at Winged Foot alongside Woods last month and got a taste of the difficulty levels.

“Tee to green, the rough, the greens, everything factored in, I think this is the hardest course I’ve played,” he said.

Morikawa conceded that he is still trying to acquaint himself around Winged Foot but is eager to back up last month’s maiden Major victory at the PGA Championship.

“Walking here as a Major champion, you have a sense of knowing how to get things done,” said the 23-year-old, whose win at Harding Park in San Francisco came in only the second Major appearance of his fledgling professional career.

“Yes, I’ve only done it once, but I’ve done it, you just want more,” he said.

“You get that little taste of what it’s like, and you know why guys mark in their calendars the Major championships for the year.”

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US OPEN

Day 1: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 11.55pm