Tiger Woods is feeling good heading into the 119th US Open at Pebble Beach, maybe not 2000 good, but better than he felt in missing the cut at last month’s PGA Championship.
“I was in rough shape,” Woods said of his tough week at Bethpage Black, although he fought shy of specifics as to whether it was his balky back, or perhaps a cold.
“All of the above,” said Woods, who had electrified the golf world in April with his triumph at the Masters.
His 15th major title came 11 years after his 14th – in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines – and after multiple back surgeries capped by spinal fusion threatened to end his career.
The 43-year-old acknowledged that his physical capabilities are far from what they were when he claimed his first US Open title at Pebble Beach in 2000 – when he marched to an astonishing 12-under par total and a breathtaking 15-shot victory that still stands as a major championship record.
“Yeah, it’s not the same body that I had back in 2000,” Woods said. “I don’t think any of us have the same body we had 19 years ago.
“Athletically, that’s one of the challenges. How do you compete against kids that were, for me, born in the 2000s? They were born after I won this damn tournament.”
Nevertheless, Woods said his approach to playing the scenic course nestled along the California coast hasn’t changed all that much.
“The golf ball is going further than it did back in 2000,” he said. “I’m slower than I was in 2000. I am about the same distance. And so the golf course really doesn’t play that much differently for me.
“It’s just a matter of putting the ball in the right spots.”
Woods said that was the key to his 2000 triumph.
“I did not hit every green. I did not hit every fairway, but I always had the proper angle,” Woods said of that “very special week.”
“It’s been 19 years. I still remember most of the shots I hit that week.I don’t know how I pulled it off, but on seaside poa annua [greens], I never missed a putt inside 10 feet for a week.”
Woods, however, declined to be drawn on whether that means he sees this week’s tournament at Pebble Beach as a chance to close in further on Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles – or whether that’s a target for him still.
“What’s important to me is that I’m back playing again,” Woods said. “This game was taken away from me for a few years there. And I miss competing, I miss playing. Now I have an opportunity to do that again.”