OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. Tiger Woods is skipping the Colonial, and will likely go to the U.S. Open having played only two tournaments since the Masters.
Woods has always played at least three times between the Masters and the U.S. Open. But he said Monday he's trying to stick to a lighter schedule after having knee surgery in December.
I'll probably play fewer events than I did last year, just to make sure everything is OK,'' he said. I'm taking more time off and just making sure everything is all right for the future. I don't want to create any further damage.''
Woods missed five tournaments early in the season after surgery to remove fluid and benign cysts that had caused ligaments in his knee to swell. He hasn't played since finishing in a tie for 15th at the Masters, a four-week break. He'll be at this weekend's Deutsche Bank-SAP Open, where he is a three-time winner and the defending champion, and then return for the Memorial.
And no, he's not going to play the Colonial, where Annika Sorenstam will become the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
No Colonial,'' he said during a teleconference at the U.S. Open media day. I'm out.''
While long layoffs aren't typical for Woods, he said his reduced schedule won't hurt his chances for a third U.S. Open title. After all, it's not as if he's been off on some exotic extended vacation.
He has spent his downtime working on his swing its plane and extension of his downswing, in particular. And he spent time with Butch Harmon last week.
He also plans to fit in a trip to Chicago for a sneak peek at Olympia Fields Country Club, where the U.S. Open will be held June 12-15.
If my practice sessions go well,'' he said, then there's nothing to worry about.''
And if there's one tournament where extra practice helps, it's the U.S. Open. Open courses are traditionally longer and narrower than those for other majors, and Olympia Fields is no different.
Almost 400 yards have been added, so the course will play at 7,190 yards. Fairways will average 28 yards across. There are only two par-5s, both on the front nine.
I think the U.S. Open setup is wonderful, because it puts a premium on ball striking,'' Woods said. On top of that, it really puts you in a position where you have to think your way around a golf course. It's just not about tee up the driver and bombs away, hit it as hard as you can and go find it. You've got to really strategize and position your golf club moreso than most tournaments you play in."
When I first played a U.S. Open, I knew how to play a U.S. Open. I knew how to strategize and put myself from point A to point B. But my game didn't allow me to do that,'' he added. I didn't drive it very straight and, on top of that, my distance control wasn't very good.''
But that's come with experience. Just 27, Woods has won two of the last three U.S. Opens, including last year's tournament at Bethpage Black in New York.
He ran away with the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, winning by 15 strokes.
And though he's never played Olympia Fields, he figures to have something of a homefield advantage.
Woods has a successful track record in Chicago, winning the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club and the 1997 and 1999 Western Opens. He's a fan favorite, too. Who can forget the sight of thousands of fans breaking through the ropes to follow him up the 18th fairway as he won the Western Open in 1997?
I'm just hoping to enjoy playing in front of the Chicago fans. They've been awesome,'' Woods said with a grin. It's been a lot of fun for me, and hopefully I can use that good karma at the U.S. Open.''
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