Storylines From The 2006 U.S. Open (Part 1)

By Peter Aviles
Updated: June 14, 2006

NEW JERSEY — There are many storylines to the 2006 U.S. Open, but the primary storyline centers on Tiger Woods. It’s well chronicled that Tiger is making his first tournament appearance since the death of his father on May 3rd of this year.

Overall, nine weeks have elapsed since he last struck a ball in competition. All eyes will be on Tiger to see if he has the “Eye of the Tiger” and can orchestrate a win at Winged Foot. If he is able to pull it off and win on Fathers’ Day, it will be one of the great storylines in golf.

If he does not win, he has a built in excuse as some have suggested because of the time off away from competition. This and other questions were raised at the pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, where he touched on many topics in explaining his time away from the game.

He opened the press conference with remarks, centering on his return. “I’m here to compete and play and try to win this championship. I know that Dad would still want me to go out there and grind it and give it my best, and that’s what I always do. That’s what I will certainly try to do this week” he stated.

As for possible rust from a lack of competition, his response was “I think the two times I’ve taken my longest breaks have been after my knee surgery in 2002 and this past winter, taking, I guess, six weeks off or whatever it was.”

“Both times I’ve come back and I’ve won. It’s just one of those things where it’s your preparation, your practice, your attention to detail when you are preparing. That’s something that I’ve learned and I’ve done very well, I think, in the past, and it’s applied to this stretch.”

When asked if he is ready to compete, he stated “I’ve had plenty of time to get ready; I just didn’t feel that I was ready to deal with all this and also try and prepare for the Open. I’d much rather kind of deal with it all at once and get it over with and not have to worry about what are you going to do for the Open? Well, I’m already here, so it’s kind of sweet.”

As to why he did not come back earlier, “I thought about coming back there, earlier, as well as later. I didn’t feel that I could be as focused as I could be to win the championship. …if you’re not focused 100 percent on winning a championship, there’s really no need to go play, so I didn’t. I didn’t come back until I felt that I was ready to win a championship.”

When asked about the competition and is he concerned that Phil Mickelson has won the last two majors, he said “Well, you keep asking me things like that. You have runs where Ernie was there for a little bit, then Vijay, Goose, and now Phil. I suppose as long as I can be part of that conversation, it’s never a bad thing.”

And not surprisingly, the conversations and questions turned to his relationship with his father and the significance of Fathers’ Day. “Am I going to miss my dad? I’m always going to miss my dad, each and every day I live’, Woods added.

“I’m going to always love my dad and will always miss him, always miss just having a chance to rap with him. It could be about anything, I didn’t care. That was the neat thing about our relationship.”

“It could be about business or I’m giving him a directive for the Foundation, what we need to do, or it could be about the golf swing or it could be about life, could be about anything and everything.”

“Our relationship was so unique in that we could put on different hats, and there’s certainly something of that that I’ll always miss.” And finally, on what it going to take “…heart, because you’re going to go through periods where it’s just tough. It tests every bit of you. But if you’ve got a heart, you’re going to be all right.”

We all know he has heart. The question is whether heart is coming to be enough to have him hoisting the Wanamaker trophy come Sunday evening. Tiger last played the course in 1997 finishing 29th in the PGA Championship ultimately won by Davis Love III.