Tiger Woods Would Like to Remind You That he Dominated the U.S. Open 20 Years Ago

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MAMARONECK, N.Y. — It has been 20 years since Tiger Woods received his first United States Open by 15 strokes, which stays the biggest margin of victory within the occasion. Two years later, golf’s leaders sought a brand new populism embodied by Woods, who realized the sport on a municipal golf course. For the primary time, America’s golf championship was contested at a public-owned facility, Bethpage Black in a New York state park. Woods received once more.

It has been 12 years since Woods final received the U.S. Open, in 2008, though that 12 months he wanted a 19-hole playoff to defeat Rocco Mediate, a 45-year-old with a creaky again.

Let’s pause a second to notice the irony as Woods, with a again that has been surgically repaired 4 instances, enters his 22nd U.S. Open this week as he awaits his 45th birthday in December.

There’s a whole lot of golf historical past in Woods’s earlier appearances on the occasion, one thing he didn’t dismiss when assembly with reporters Tuesday at Winged Foot Golf Club, the place the championship begins Thursday. The recollections, good and dangerous, flashed by the many years. And but, essentially the most amusing, and telling, Tiger-related memory got here from the defending U.S. Open champion, Gary Woodland, who not too long ago appeared at an outing with Woods.

Woods was carrying his inexperienced jacket commemorating his 2019 Masters victory. Woodland introduced the trophy that goes with a U.S. Open victory.

“I had the trophy with me and was giving him a hard time that his name was only on there twice,” Woodland mentioned Tuesday.

Woods didn’t see the humor.

“It’s three times,” he corrected in a millisecond.

It has been a troublesome 12 months for Woods, and never simply because even his pals, like Woodland, generally put out of your mind the finer particulars of his greatness. His ailing again, almost miraculously secure and supple throughout his mesmerizing 2019 Masters victory, has been an intractable hindrance within the worst of instances and an unpredictable wild card in the perfect of instances — or a mix of each.

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Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

At the Memorial Tournament in July, together with his again feeling fluid, Woods shot a one-under-par 71 within the first spherical. The subsequent day, he winced and limped to a four-over-par 76 when sudden again stiffness made a full swing not possible. Afterward, an unruffled Woods didn’t appear stunned — or perturbed.

“So you never know exactly what you’re going to have each day?” I requested him.

He smiled and replied: “It’s going to happen more times than not.”

Woods has performed six instances this 12 months (not counting the charity exhibition match with Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) and his greatest end was a tie for ninth in late January. In the six months since that end result, the perfect he has carried out is tie for 37th, with 4 finishes outdoors the highest 50.

At tournaments, Woods’s disposition, which might run the gamut in his prime, is now almost all the time measured and cooperative. On Tuesday, he didn’t break type when requested to summarize his season to date. He gave the impression of a golfer of any stripe after a spate of poor play: He missed putts, made some swing errors and put the ball within the incorrect spots.

“I’ve compounded mistakes,” he mentioned.

As one of many few golfers within the huge area who participated within the final U.S. Open held at Winged Foot, in 2006, Woods was requested what recommendation he might give his colleagues as they attempt to deal with a golf course famend for its fearsome problem. There wasn’t an excessive amount of he might say since he missed the reduce that 12 months, the primary time he had carried out so at a serious championship.

But there was one other piece to his 2006 U.S. Open story.

About a month after he tied for third on the 2006 Masters and didn’t win the event for the fourth time, his father, Earl Woods, died. Woods didn’t play once more till that 12 months’s subsequent main, at Winged Foot in June.

“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 mentioned Tuesday.

Looking forward to that 12 months’s U.S. Open, Woods mentioned: “Frankly, when I got ready for this event, I didn’t really put in the time. I didn’t really put in the practice.” He was not ready to play, however added: “After that, I probably did some pretty good grieving.”

A month later, he received the British Open and 6 extra instances that 12 months, together with the 2006 P.G.A. Championship.

In the nippiness of Tuesday morning, Woods performed a observe spherical with a 22-year-old beginner, John Augenstein, who was not alive when Woods first performed within the U.S. Open. The third member of the group was Justin Thomas, 27, who grew up idolizing Woods, even when he was solely two years previous when Tiger struck his first shot in a U.S. Open.

Thursday, Thomas and Woods can be paired within the first spherical. It will nonetheless be a primary for Woods.

Never earlier than has Woods performed a spherical within the U.S. Open and not using a large gallery following him. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, spectators have been barred from this 12 months’s championship.

But waiting for Thursday, Thomas, the world’s third-ranked golfer, mentioned he’ll acknowledge a little bit of historical past when he sees it.

“I’ll know that’s the fewest amount of people he’s played in front of since he was about four,” Thomas mentioned.