Tiger steps into the unknown

LOS ANGELES: Tiger Woods admits he will be taking a step into the unknown at this week's US Open as he returns to competition for the first time since the death of his father. 

Woods' father Earl died on May 3 after a long battle with cancer and the American hasn't played since the Masters in April. 

Earl was a huge influence on his son's career and Woods says he doesn't know what emotions he will experience when the US Open at Winged Foot starts on Thursday. 

Writing on his website newsletter, he said: “As for my golf game, I don't really know what to expect next week. 

“I've never had to experience anything in life like this and never had a nine-week layoff before. 

“So we'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully my game will be sharp.” 

One player on the tour who can empathise with Woods is Davis Love III, whose father, Davis Love jnr died in a plane crash in 1988. 

Love, who won the 1997 PGA Championship, the last major staged at the New York course, said: “Obviously my dad was a big part of everything I did and will do in my golf. 

“Tiger is going to be in the same boat as me. Every time he goes to play golf, he'll think of his father. That's not going to change. 

“It's going to be hard for a while but it'll also be a positive for him down the road.” 

Woods would have faced a tough time in New York regardless of the circumstances as he prepares for the tournament at what Masters champion Phil Mickelson calls “the hardest member's course I've ever seen.” 

“The greens are brutal,” Mickelson said. “It will be quite a test.” 

Mickelson has won the past two major championships, adding the Masters in April to the PGA Championship he won last August. 

The 2006 edition of the Open may not produce the “massacre” of the 1974 US Open at Winged Foot, when Hale Irwin won with a score of seven-over-par, but Mickelson said the winning score would certainly be higher than Love's 11-under at the 1997 PGA. 

Love agrees and he said: “If you went back and played the same course again, it would be hard to get that score.” 

It would also be hard to match the poignant ending of Love's final round, when a rainbow at the closing hole evoked the memory of his father. 

Love said: “People ask me what was the best thing about winning the PGA Championship and it's carrying my dad's memory on.” 

It's the kind of moment Woods's legion of fans will be hoping he has a chance to experience when the US Open concludes on the US Father's Day holiday. – AFP  

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