Tiger Woods Set for First U.S. Open Since 2020 As Son, Charlie, Takes Larger Role With Preparation

Woods has been practicing at Pinehurst for the past week, and his 15-year-old son, Charlie, is taking on a larger role. “I trust him with my swing and my game," Woods said of his son.
Tiger Woods received a special exemption to play this week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
Tiger Woods received a special exemption to play this week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst. / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

PINEHURST, N.C. — Tiger Woods has been limited to two official rounds of golf since making the cut at the Masters, and they weren’t very good ones. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship, hasn’t played since, and now faces a tricky U.S. Open venue at Pinehurst No. 2.

Woods, 48, who received a special exemption from the United States Golf Association to play the tournament he has won three times, is making his first appearance in the championship since missing the cut at Winged Foot in 2020.

Physical issues have made his recent golf particularly frustrating and his level of preparation for this week remains vague.

“Nothing can simulate what we have here this particular week, the amount of little shots and the knobs and run-offs, and either using wedges or long irons or woods around the greens or even putter,’’ Woods said during a news conference at Pinehurst. “There's so many different shots that you really can't simulate unless you get on the property.

“That's one of the reasons I came up here last Tuesday, to be able to try and do that. Quite a bit of work. The golf course has firmed up and gotten faster since then. Even this week, even with the rain we had the other night, the golf course is still faster.’’

Woods played Pinehurst last week, his first visit to the property since he tied for second at the 2005 U.S. Open won by Michael Campbell. He also tied for third in 1999 when Payne Stewart was the winner. He missed the championship in 2014 while recovering from a back procedure and physical issues that have dominated the last 10 years of his career.

Since the February 2021 car crash which severely damaged his right leg, ankle and foot, Woods has played in just nine worldwide events.

He made the cut at the Masters earlier this year but shot 82-77 on the weekend to finish last among those who made the cut. At the PGA Championship, his tournament was marred by two early triple bogeys in his second round. He shot scores of 72-77.

Woods arrived at Pinehurst on Sunday afternoon and played nine holes each of the last three days. Notable as part of his preparation has been Woods’ son, Charlie, 15, who has closely watched Woods practice and play at Pinehurst while offering plenty of feedback.

The 15-time major champion does not have an official swing coach, and his friend and frequent golf advisor Rob McNamara has also been part of the preparation. But Charlie appears to have taken on a bigger role.

“I trust him with my swing and my game,’’ Woods said. “He's seen it more than anybody else in the world. He's seen me hit more golf balls than anyone. I tell him what to look for, especially with putting. He gave me a couple little side bits today, which was great, because I get so entrenched in hitting certain putts to certain pins, I tend to forget some of the things I'm working on.

“I just want to see the balls rolling. He reminds me every now and again, which is great. We have a great relationship and rapport like that, and it's a wonderful experience for both of us.’’

Woods won nine USGA champions starting with the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur. He won that three straight years and then followed with three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles. He won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000, at Bethpage Black in 2002 and at Torrey Pines in 2008.

The USGA is giving Woods its highest honor on Tuesday, the Bob Jones Award, in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. The nine titles matches the USGA record held by Jones, who won four U.S. Opens and five U.S. Amateurs.

“Arguably, Tiger is, if not the most important then one of the most important USGA champions ever,’’ said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s chief championships officer. “Nine USGA national championships, three Opens, three juniors, three Amateurs. He didn’t lose a match in match play over six championships.

“I don’t care what level you play, to do that might be the greatest record in sports. Match play, I mean...it’s like hitting in 56 straight games in baseball (Joe DiMaggio’s record) or 100 points (Wilt Chamberlain in the NBA) in basketball. It’s amazing. And to think what he means to the game, and to have him as part of the celebration. He was here in ’99 when Payne won and he contended in 2005. He’s just an iconic part of our game and an iconic part of the USGA.’’

Woods will have the benefit of warm weather and an easier walk than he saw at both Augusta National and Valhalla. In practice, he’s been moving around fine, hitting numerous good shots.

He’s simply been unable to get through tournaments in his most recent attempts.

“I feel like I have the strength to be able to do it,’’ he said. “It’s just a matter of doing it.’’

Woods gets started early on Thursday along with Matt Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris. He tees off at 7:29 a.m. His Friday tee time is 1:14 p.m.


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Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience covering golf, including 15 at ESPN. Bob is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods and Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry. He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Bob, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Florida.