Tiger Woods ready for U.S. Open challenge

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Tiger Woods motions while chipping onto the third green during a practice round for the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Southampton, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) ORG XMIT: USO105

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — With two tranquil 9-hole practice rounds that stretched into the evening, first with Jordan Spieth on Sunday, then with Steve Stricker on Monday, Tiger Woods eased his way into the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Another trek Tuesday morning on the front nine, this time with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, the winners of the past two PGA Tour titles, was another undisturbed work session for Woods as he prepares to play in the U.S. Open for the first time since missing the cut in 2015.

“I’ve missed playing the U.S. Open. It’s our nation’s title,” said Woods, who has won said titles in 2000, 2002 and 2008. “This will be another fun test.”

All has been quiet on the Woods front except for the din Privacy has generated. That’s the name of his multimillion-dollar, 155-foot yacht that is docked nearby and been at the forefront of many reports. The anchored home provides comfort and convenience for Woods and basically eliminates his concern to beat the traffic that has clogged the roadways and heightened tensions among his boat-less peers who have struggled to get to the course.

“Staying on the dinghy helps,” Woods said Tuesday with a big smile.

Woods has nicely settled into his surroundings for the week and quickly reacquainted himself with Shinnecock, where he withdrew with a wrist injury as an amateur in the 1995 U.S. Open and finished in a tie for 17th in the 2004 U.S. Open. A two-day reconnaissance trip three weeks ago was his first glimpse at the renovated layout, where 10 new tees have been added since 2004, 500 trees removed and the rough around the greens shaved away.

Those days were wet and the course was damp, however, so Woods didn’t get a true taste for the place. Through three days this week, he has.

“It’s a lot longer,” Woods said. “The fairways seem to be about twice as wide. It’s a very different test, very different look. And as the golf course dries out, this golf course is going to be another great U.S. Open test.”

It will be a brutal test for Woods if he can’t get his putter working. While he’s contended late on Sunday in five of his nine starts, with a tie for second in the Valspar Championship and a tie for fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational his best finishes, one piece or another of the puzzle has been missing in his latest comeback since spinal fusion surgery in April last year.

Early in the year the driver was giving him fits. Then his short irons failed him. Then his putter went AWOL.

“There’s always something,” said Woods. “Hopefully, this is one of those weeks where I put it all together and even it out, and we’ll see what happens.”

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