MAMARONECK, N.Y. – The memories are not great.
Tiger Woods shot 76-76 and missed the cut by three at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, but his head wasn’t really in it.
“I think it was just – I was not prepared to play and still dealing with the death of my dad,” he said Tuesday.
At the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot this week the questions will be about Woods’ body, not his mind. In ’06, he was just six weeks removed from the death of his father Earl.
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“Yeah, when I didn’t win the Masters that year, that was really tough to take because that was the last event my dad was ever going to watch me play,” Woods said. “He passed not too long after that, and quite frankly, when I got ready for this event, I didn’t really put in the time. I didn’t really put in the practice, and consequently missed the cut pretty easily.”
Woods went on to win the Open Championship later that summer, sobbing on the shoulder of his caddie, Steve Williams, on the 18th green. But at Winged Foot? A month earlier? No. It wasn’t happening. He made six bogeys and a double in the first round, three bogeys and two doubles in the second. He was there but not there. Not really.
A lot has changed since, starting with the fact that Woods, 44, made just seven official starts last season due to mobility issues with his surgically fused back. One of those, the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP last October, turned into his 82nd PGA TOUR victory, but there was precious little else for the highlight reel.
Woods had only one other top-10 finish last season, a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open. He did not feel well enough to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, which like Torrey Pines is one of his favorite courses on TOUR. He also missed The Honda Classic, his hometown tournament, and elected to sit out THE PLAYERS Championship (cancelled after one round anyway because of the pandemic).
And when he came back along with everyone else in June? Meh. He finished T37 at the PGA Championship, T58 at THE NORTHERN TRUST, and T51 at the BMW Championship.
“This year I really haven’t putted as well as I wanted to,” Woods said, “and the times I did make a few swing mistakes, I missed it in the wrong spots. Consequently, I just didn’t have the right looks at it. I’ve compounded mistakes here and there that ended up not making me able to make pars or a birdie run, and consequently I haven’t put myself in contention to win events.”
Now he comes to Winged Foot, a course he also played at the 1997 PGA Championship, making history, of sorts. Woods and Phil Mickelson were paired together for the first time as professionals in the final round. Each shot 75 in the rain, each finished T29. (Davis Love III won.)
In terms of difficulty, Woods ranks Winged Foot alongside Oakmont in Pennsylvania and notoriously nasty Open Championship venue Carnoustie.
“The winning scores here have never traditionally been very low,” Woods said. (Hale Irwin won the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot at 7 over par; Geoff Ogilvy was 5 over in 2006.) “I don’t see that changing this week.”
The Memorial Tournament and BMW Championship brought especially hard conditions, but the rough at Winged Foot is something else entirely. Most players have said it will be impossible to advance the ball from the long stuff. Gary Woodland said he was practicing his chipping, his caddie tossing him balls, when they lost one and couldn’t find it for five minutes. Marshalls, Woodland added, are going to be invaluable.
Tuesday brought chilly temperatures, with Patrick Cantlay donning a ski hat and Woods wearing rain paints for warmth. He played nine holes with Presidents Cup partner Justin Thomas (they’re also together for the first two rounds, along with PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa) and 2019 U.S. Amateur runner-up John Augenstein of Kentucky. The weekend forecast is for even cooler weather.
“The golf course is going to be hard,” said Woods. “It depends on how difficult they want to set up these pins, give us a chance at it. But with the forecast, it’s going to be difficult no matter what.”
Source: PGA tour