All eyes on hungry Tiger

All eyes on hungry Tiger

World No 1 American will be aiming to break his major drought

All eyes on hungry Tiger

Merion Golf Club has been linked with some of the most iconic moments in championship golf and Tiger Woods will aim to add a chapter of his own when he competes there in this week’s US Open as the overwhelming favourite.

A host of other in-form players can lay claim to being genuine contenders for the year’s second major, which begins on Thursday, but Woods is widely viewed as the likeliest winner based on his outstanding record and the often dominant form he has shown this season.

Though Woods did not fare well in his most recent start, languishing joint 65th in a field of 73 at the Memorial Tournament eight days ago, he has triumphed four times on the 2013 PGA Tour and is clearly the player to beat at Merion.

With much of his golf this year, the American World No 1 has revived memories of his glory days in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he will be eager to end a major title drought dating back to his play-off victory at the 2008 US Open.

“I feel comfortable with the motion I’m making,” three-times US Open champion Woods said of the progress he has made in consultation with coach Sean Foley following the fourth swing change of his career.  “All the stretches where I've played well for a few years, a few tournaments ... I just felt good about what I was able to do ... being able to fix it (the swing) on the fly.

Woods was bitterly disappointed with his overall game at the Memorial Tournament, especially his putting, and was swift to outline what needed improving for Merion when asked by reporters.

“Everything,” the 14-times major champion replied. “You want everything clicking on all cylinders, especially at the US Open because everything is tested in the US Open.”
Merion’s iconic East Course will be hosting its fifth US Open this week, but its first in 32 years after long being regarded as too short to host a major.

The par-70 layout located in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore has been stretched to 6,996 yards since Australian David Graham triumphed by three strokes in the 1981 edition, and Woods appreciates that precise shot-making is required for success.

This is a course, after all, where Bobby Jones completed his “Grand Slam” by winning the 1930 US amateur, where Ben Hogan claimed the 1950 US Open just 16 months after being involved in a near-fatal motor vehicle accident and where Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a play-off to win the 1971 US Open.

“If you look at the list of champions, they have all been really good shot-makers,” said Woods. “They have all been able to shape the golf ball. That's what it lends itself to. You have to be able to shape the golf ball, and you have to be so disciplined to play the course.”

Phil Mickelson, runner-up a record five times at the US Open, visited Merion last week and was lavish with his praise for a layout that has thick rough, narrow, tilted fairways, deep bunkers, contoured greens and several semi-blind tee shots.

“It's really a wonderful set-up, the best I've seen,” said the four-times major champion.

As ever at a US Open, the ability to minimise errors and to stay patient on slick greens and tight fairways flanked by thick, graduated rough will be defining traits in the make-up of this week's champion.