World number one golfer Tiger Woods of the United States leads the field when the U.S. Open golf tournament tees off Thursday at Pebble Beach, California. Woods looks to right his game on the windswept course and beat a field that includes Masters winner Phil Mickelson of the United States, Lee Westwood of England, and defending champion Lucas Glover.
Tiger Woods has some fond memories of the U.S. Open. He has won the national championship three times, including in 2000, when he shot a 12-under-par and beat the rest of the field by 15 strokes.
In 2008, Woods was hobbled by stress fractures and a torn ligament in his knee, but still managed to beat countryman Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff round. Woods underwent reconstructive surgery, and returned to action last season, but American Lucas Glover won the title.
After an embarrassing sex scandal drove Woods from the course for several months at the end of 2009 and into this season, he finished fourth at the Masters. Since Augusta, Woods has missed the cut at Quail Hollow, withdrawn because of a sore neck at the Players, and tied for 19th at the Memorial.
His lack of playing time could affect his game this week, but Tiger says he is ready to tackle Pebble Beach.
"As far as my game, I am very excited about how it has progressed," said Tiger Woods. "It has gotten better. The more time I have been able to practice and play it is starting to solidify. And I am actually really excited to get out there and tee it up on Thursday."
But Tiger has no illusions that winning the U.S. Open will be easy. Woods says that the U.S. Golf Association makes sure that players will have to bring their best game, at Pebble Beach or wherever the tournament is played.
"Generally it is the highest rough we play all year, it is the narrowest fairways, the hardest greens and the trickiest pins," he said. "It is different than most major championships. You are not going to make a lot of birdies. And the whole idea is not to make a lot of big numbers [of strokes] because you are not going to get them back."
For Tiger to win a fourth U.S. Open, he will have to beat Masters champion and world No. 2 Phil Mickelson of the United States. Mickelson has finished second five times in his last 11 U.S. Opens and he has won the tour's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am twice. The man known as "Lefty" says that winning this week would bring a sense of completeness because he began his professional career at Pebble Beach.
"Well it would mean a lot to any player, myself included given that I have come so close so many times," said Phil Mickelson. "My special tie to Pebble Beach that again it was my first event as a professional. And I have played here so many times over the years, and have had success here at AT&T and have a lot of fond memories here."
Defending champion Lucas Glover is also in the field and is trying to become the first golfer since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens. The soft-spoken South Carolinian says that he plans to take the same approach to the tournament that brought him success last year.
"David Love told me something pretty important, I feel was pretty important," said Lucas Glover. "He said 'you know, you won playing like you, so do not change it.' And I have always tried to focus on working on my weaknesses and getting better. And I did not see a point in changing me or my golf swing or anything like that."
A strong international field - including World No. 3 Lee Westwood of England, two-time former champions Ernie Els and Retief Goosen of South Africa, 2007 winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina and 2006 winner Geoff Ogilvy of Australia are entered. The weather forecast is calling for cloudy conditions with temperatures around 17 degrees Celsius throughout the tournament. Next year, the U.S. Open moves back to Washington's Congressional Country Club, where Tiger Woods has hosted the AT&T National the past three years.