US Open signs en­cour­ag­ing for Woods

10 years on from last ma­jor vic­tory

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

It’s been 10 years since Tiger Woods limped to vic­tory in the 2008 US Open, an un­likely tri­umph that has been fol­lowed by a once in­con­ceiv­able ma­jor cham­pi­onship drought.

Woods de­fied the pain of a dam­aged left knee and two stress frac­tures to de­feat Rocco Me­di­ate in a Mon­day play­off at Tor­rey Pines 10 years ago – forc­ing the de­cider in dra­matic style with a birdie at the 72nd hole.

“That was a pretty spe­cial week, be­cause I’ve had prob­a­bly four ma­jors where I’ve putted like that: ’97 Mas­ters, 2000 US Open, 2000 Bri­tish [Open] and then that 2008 [US Open],” Woods said.

“I don’t think I re­ally missed a putt in­side 10 feet in any of those four ma­jor cham­pi­onships. And that was a week that I needed it be­cause I didn’t re­ally hit the ball as well as those other three ma­jors that I men­tioned.”

Mak­ing Woods’s 2008 US Open vic­tory even more re­mark­able, it was his first tour­na­ment since an arthro­scopic procedure on his left knee eight weeks ear­lier – although only a hand­ful of peo­ple knew the ex­tent of Woods’s in­juries at the time.

Two days af­ter the vic­tory, Woods an­nounced he was hav­ing sea­so­nend­ing knee surgery.

The decade that fol­lowed saw scan­dal, suc­cess and fur­ther fit­ness woes that fi­nally left Woods won­der­ing not only whether he would re­sume his pur­suit of Jack Nick­laus’s record of 18 ma­jor ti­tles but whether he would ever com­pete or even have a nor­mal life again.

“The last cou­ple years have felt like a very long time,” Woods says. “A sec­ond seemed like 24 hours.

“Last year in Septem­ber, I didn’t know, I just didn’t know if I would ever be able to do it again. I was just hop­ing to be able to walk again with­out hurt­ing, to be able to sit down again with­out hav­ing this burn­ing pain down the leg.

“To some­how be out here now do­ing it again, it’s a bless­ing.”

Great ath­lete

Woods will be play­ing his 26th ma­jor since Tor­rey Pines when he tees it up in the 118th US Open at Shin­necock Hills next Thurs­day.

He’s had nine top-10 fin­ishes in Grand Slam events since his last win. A run­ner-up fin­ish in the 2009 PGA Cham­pi­onship notwith­stand­ing, Woods says his best chance to snag a 15th ma­jor came at the 2011 Mas­ters, where he started the last round seven adrift but surged into con­tention with a five­un­der front nine.

“I felt like I had all the mo­men­tum,” said Woods – who cooled off com­ing in to fin­ish with a share of fourth. “That was the one I could have got­ten.”

Woods hasn’t won a tour­na­ment since he cap­tured his eighth WGC Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional ti­tle at Akron, Ohio, in 2013 – one of five ti­tles he claimed that year as he re­claimed the world No.1 rank­ing. Woods’s lat­est re­turn from in­jury has shown in­evitable in­con­sis­ten­cies but enough qual­ity to

pre­dict he’ll win again.

Woods put on his best ball-strik­ing dis­play of the sea­son at the Me­mo­rial, lead­ing the field in strokes gained tee to green.

But a balky put­ter cost him shots and af­ter he elec­tri­fied the crowd at Muir­field Vil­lage by briefly putting his name atop the leader­board on Satur­day he fin­ished tied for 23rd.

“I just need to hit bet­ter putts,” said Woods, who cer­tainly will if he’s to have a shot at Shin­necock.

But Nick­laus sees no rea­son the 42-year-old su­per­star won’t add to his tally of ma­jor ti­tles. “I’ve al­ways said that if Tiger comes back and plays then he’s still got a shot at break­ing my record,” Nick­laus said.

“Even with now 10 years pass­ing it doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence. He’s still a great ath­lete and a great golfer.”

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the fifth hole dur­ing the fi­nal round of The Me­mo­rial Tour­na­ment Pre­sented by Na­tion­wide at Muir­field Vil­lage Golf Club on June 3 in Dublin, Ohio.

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