Golf: U.S. Open: Seeking 1st major in 5 years, Woods preps for Merion

2013-06-12T00:00:00Z Golf: U.S. Open: Seeking 1st major in 5 years, Woods preps for MerionThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

ARDMORE, Pa. - The photo of Ben Hogan hitting his 1-iron into the 18th green at Merion in the 1950 U.S. Open is among the most famous in golf history, capturing the pure swing of one of the greatest players when the pressure of a major championship was at its peak.

Instead of marveling at the swing, Tiger Woods thought more about the results.

"That was to get into a playoff," Woods said Tuesday. "Got about 40 feet and still had some work to do. It's a great photo. But it would have been an all right photo if he didn't win. He still had to go out and win it the next day."

Hogan managed to lag the long putt to about 4 feet and quickly knocked that in for his par to join a three-way playoff, which he won the next day over Lloyd Mangrum and Tom Fazio. Of his four U.S. Open titles, that meant the most to Hogan because he proved he could win just 16 months after a horrific car accident that nearly killed him. On battered legs, Hogan had to play the 36-hole final, followed by the 18-hole playoff.

In some small way, Woods can relate.

Five years ago, Woods tried to play the U.S. Open with the ligaments shredded in his left knee and a double stress fracture in his lower left leg. The USGA published a book, "Great Moments of the U.S. Open," and the photo it selected for the cover showed Woods arching his back and pumping his fists after making a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines to get into a playoff.

There wouldn't have been much of a photo if he'd missed.

Woods had to go 91 holes that week. He had to make another birdie on the 18th hole of the playoff to go extra holes before finally beating Rocco Mediate.

"I think there was a lot of people pulling for Tiger," said Rory McIlroy, who was 19 at the time, a rookie on the European Tour. "It was probably one of the best performances golf has ever seen, if not sport in general."

Hard as it might have been to believe that day, it also was the last major Woods won.

Majors don't come as easily as they once seemed to for Woods, though he never looked at them that way.

"It wasn't ever easy," he said. "I felt it was still difficult because the major of the majors, three of the four always rotated. It was always on a new site each and every year. Augusta was the only one you could rely on from past experiences. A lot of majors that I won were on either the first or second time I'd ever seen it."

Merion is new not only to him, but just about everyone. It last hosted a U.S. Open in 1981.

It figures to be a different test this week, with what seems like a recurrence of the troublesome weather that has followed the PGA Tour around this season.

The course has received some 5 inches of rain since Friday. Woods played the course two weeks ago, when it also rained, and more is forecast for Thursday.

"I thought it might be totally different," Woods said. "As I explained at Memorial, I thought the ball would be running out and we would hit different clubs and different shapes. But it's going to be the same as what we played" in his practice round two weeks ago.

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