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Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 19:03 UK

Fit-again Woods eyes US Open win

US OPEN
Venue: Torrey Pines, La Jolla, California Date: 12-15 June
Coverage: BBC Radio 5 Live, Text commentary on BBC Sport website from 1600 BST

Tiger Woods
Woods is chasing his 14th major championship

Tiger Woods will start as favourite for the 108th US Open which starts in San Diego on Thursday, despite not playing a competitive round for two months.

The world number one, who is returning after knee surgery, is chasing a 14th major title and a fifth straight win at Torrey Pines in California.

Fellow American Phil Mickelson, ranked second, grew up in the area and has also tasted success at the course.

Sergio Garcia and Ireland's Padraig Harrington are the form Europeans.

Argentine Angel Cabrera is the defending champion, while among the British challengers is Luke Donald, who has twice finished runner-up at the Buick Invitational, the PGA tournament which is held at Torrey Pines each January.

Make no mistake, this is a seriously difficult golf course, but it has been fairly set up

Masters champion Trevor Immelman

Donald finished tied for sixth at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio at the beginning of June, while fellow Englishman Justin Rose, the world number six, was tied for second.

Woods, who won the US Open in 2000 and 2002, has had three operations on his left knee but he insisted his comeback was progressing smoothly, if slowly.

"I'm good to go," said the 32-year-old, who won his first tournament back after knee surgery in December 2002.

"Come game time on Thursday I'll be ready. It's a matter of now getting the feel of playing again.

"Is it fully recovered? Probably not, but it's no big deal. I've won tournaments like that before."

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson grew up playing Torrey Pines and has won the Buick Invitational three times

Woods, who was second at the Masters in April in his last tournament before the operation, has won six Buick Invitationals at Torrey Pines, including the last four.

Nearby resident Mickelson, who will play with Woods and Australia's world number three Adam Scott for the first two rounds, has been a regular visitor to Torrey Pines since his junior days and has won three Buicks.

The three-time major winner called Torrey Pines "the best set-up I've ever seen for a US Open", and he also believes the 7,643-yard, par-71 South Course is ideally suited to his game.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to compete in the US Open on the course I grew up on in the prime of my career," said Mickelson, who has yet to win the US Open after finishing runner-up four times.

"Winning this tournament would be something that would help define my career.

"What I love about this week is that short game will be a factor.

"A skillful player around the greens can get the ball close. I think that making short game a factor is advantageous to me, it gives me a better opportunity to get into contention."

Cabrera is bidding to become the first man to retain the US Open title since Curtis Strange in 1989, but is far from happy with his form on the greens coming into the tournament.

"I'm having a rough time with my putting right now," said Cabrera. "I have two putters, the one I used last year at Oakmont and a new one."

No European has won the event since England's Tony Jacklin in 1970, but Garcia, who won the high-profile Players Championship in May, and Open champion Harrington will both feel confident.

I think it's no secret that if I really loved this place and loved the golf course, I'd probably play the Buick a lot more often than I do

Jim Furyk

Harrington also finished fifth at the Masters, while both men finished tied for fourth at last week's St Jude Championship in Memphis.

Another man to have triumphed at Torrey Pines is Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa, who won the US Amateur Public Links championship in 1998.

However, Immelman said the course had changed beyond recognition and that it would, like most major venues, favour long hitters.

"We all know it's a lot longer [it was lengthened by 500 yards in 2001]," said Immelman. "And the greens are a lot more severe and undulating and there are a lot more plateaus.

"Make no mistake, this is a seriously difficult golf course, but it has been fairly set up."

American Jim Furyk, who has finished as runner-up by a stroke in the last two US Opens, is not a fan of the venue and only played the Buick event this year to familiarise himself with the course.

But the world number 10 hopes Torrey Pines in summer conditions might suit his game better.

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kwiniaskagolfer

"I think it's no secret that if I really loved this place and loved the golf course, I'd probably play the Buick a lot more often than I do," said Furyk, 38, who won his only major, the US Open, at Olympia Fields five years ago.

"But in order to win at the US Open, you're going to have to drive the ball in the fairway and knock some putts in. That's been the strength of my game for a lot of years."


see also
US Open 2008 photos
10 Jun 08 |  Golf
Ken Brown's US Open preview
11 Jun 08 |  Golf
California dreaming
10 Jun 08 |  Golf


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