June 15, 2006

Tiger suffers frustrating return at US Open

By Steve Keating

MAMARONECK, New York (Reuters) - Back in action for the
first time in more than nine weeks following the death of his
father, Tiger Woods said he was feeling plenty of emotion
during his opening round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.

But there has never been any place for sentiment or self
pity in Woods's game and there was none on display at Winged
Foot Golf Club. The world number one said there was only one
emotion that overwhelmed him.

"Frustration," Woods told reporters after returning a
six-over 76 to match his worst opening round at a major.
"Three-over after three holes...not very happy.

"The fans were absolutely incredible cheering me on.

"I understand the situation where everyone is looking for
me to be more emotional.

"But right now, I'm just focusing, just trying to win a

Woods received a heartfelt welcome back from a large
gallery as he prepared to tee off for the first time without
the steadying presence of his father Earl, his lifelong mentor,
adviser and friend.

But the crowd failed to lift the world number one as he
labored through an outward nine scarred by six bogeys,
including three straight to open his round.


Despite his denials, there were signs of rust everywhere on
Woods's game as he sprayed his tee shots from pillar to post
and struggled to find his touch on the unusually slow greens.

His round featured only two birdies -- one on the par-five
fifth and another on the 15th to help offset a double-bogey
seven on the par-five 12th.

"I felt pretty good," said Woods, who had not played since
a third place finish at the U.S. Masters. "I expected to be on
the rusty side, but I really felt good.

"I started off swinging well. The only thing that got my
round out to a bad start was not adjusting to the greens. And
once I did that, I was fine, but I was so far behind.

"They've been slow all week, I just didn't make that
adjustment faster.

"If I would have just made the adjustment on the greens
faster then I wouldn't have been so far behind the eight ball."

Woods had his game face on right from his opening tee shot
to his four-foot closing putt for par on the 18th.

The only expressions Woods displayed were familiar ones,
wincing at near misses and the occasional smile breaking across
his stoic face.

Woods conceded there were aspects of his game which need to
improve if he is to challenge for a third U.S. Open title but
his mental game was not one of them.

"My mind, definitely, just being patient, grinding and
fighting, staying calm and getting the job done, being focused
on each and every shot, that was fine," said Woods.
"Unfortunately I got so far behind earlier and the conditions
toughening up a little bit, I just didn't get it back.

One other aspect of Woods game not dulled by the layoff was
the 10-time major winner's reknowned determination and

"It's been done before, hasn't it?" questioned Woods when
asked if he thought he could rebound from the first round
disaster. "Just have to plod along, so we'll see what happens."