Tiger Woods not worried about US PGA preparation as he eyes 16th major

By Sports Desk August 04, 2020

Tiger Woods has no concerns over his preparation for the US PGA Championship, the American superstar in a confident mood as he chases a 16th major title.

Woods has only made one competitive appearance since the PGA Tour resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic in June – the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village.

In his long-awaited return last month, Woods finished 15 strokes adrift of champion John Rahm in a share of 40th position, the former world number one struggling with a stiff back which has proven troublesome in recent years following surgery.

Woods is now in San Francisco for the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, where the four-time winner will play alongside Rory McIlroy and new number one Justin Thomas in Thursday's opening round behind closed doors due to COVID-19.

And the 44-year-old Woods shrugged off the lack of spectators for the first major of 2020, telling reporters: "As far as the focus part of it, I haven't had a problem with that. Those four [Memorial] rounds, I was pretty into it.

"It's different than most of the times when you go from green-to-tee, people yelling or trying to touch you. That part is different. As far as energy while I'm competing and playing, no that's the same. I'm pretty intense when I play and pretty into what I'm doing.

"I don't know if anyone in our generation has ever played without fans in a major championship. It's going to be very different. But it's still a major championship. It's still the best players in the world. We all understand that going into it, so there’s going to be plenty of energy from the competitive side."

Woods added: "I feel good. Obviously I haven't played much competitively, but I've been playing a lot at home. So I've been getting plenty of reps that way … the results that I've seen at home, very enthusiastic about some of the changes I've made and so that's been positive.

"Just trying to get my way back into this part of the season. This is what I've been gearing up for. We've got a lot of big events starting from here, so looking forward to it. This is going to be a fun test for all of us. The rough is up. Fairways are much narrower than they were here in 2009."

Brooks Koepka will start his bid for a PGA Championship three-peat alongside fellow American Gary Woodland and Irishman Shane Lowry at 08:11 (local time), 22 minutes before Woods is scheduled to tee off.

Dethroned world number one Rahm, 2005 champion Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia have been grouped together and will get their campaigns underway at 13:58 (local time), while Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are another notable group.

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    Matthew Wolff expects to be "a little antsy" to begin the final round after moving into the lead at the U.S. Open.

    Wolff, 21, carded a record-equalling five-under 65 at Winged Foot on Saturday to open up a two-stroke lead in New York.

    The American, whose round matched the 65 Justin Thomas shot on Thursday for the lowest in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, is on track to become the first tournament debutant to win the major since 1913.

    A one-time winner on the PGA Tour, Wolff also gave up a three-stroke lead after the third round at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July with Bryson DeChambeau – who is second at the U.S. Open – winning the tournament.

    Wolff expects nerves in the final round again in what is just his second appearance at a major.

    "I bet you I'm probably going to be a little antsy. It's the U.S. Open, and I have a lead," he told reporters.

    "I'm going to try to keep my nerves as calm as they can be, and like I said, relax tonight, not really try to think about it. I put myself in a really good spot. I did everything that I could do up until this point, and tomorrow I'm going to go out there, I promise you I'm going to try my best, and if I come out on top or not, it is what it is.

    "But right now I'm just looking to go have a good time, and it's just golf. Even though it is the U.S. Open, there's a lot of things in life that are a little different right now, and in the world you can see how many things are affecting us.

    "And even though it would be unbelievable to add my name to a U.S. Open trophy, I think that the most important thing is realising everything that's going on and the people that I'm close with are … there's some things happening with that. Not anything that has to do with me, but my agent, John, is struggling right now with his health, and I've been thinking about him a lot out there. He doesn't want anyone to feel bad for him, but like I said, it just puts things in perspective. And I'm going to go out there, try to make him proud and go have a good time."

    Wolff blitzed the front nine at Winged Foot with five birdies, and he managed his round despite hitting just two of 14 fairways.

    Asked what was working well, Wolff said: "Everything. I think my putting was by far the best it's felt in the last two or three months. I feel like I'm really hitting the ball well.

    "My irons were really good, and even though I only hit two fairways, my driver was – it was just barely off, but that's the U.S. Open.

    "I feel like even though I missed the fairway, there was a lot of times I was in that graduated rough that's a little shorter, and I feel like yesterday the difference was I was in the really long stuff.

    "Like I said, I felt really good with all parts of my game, and I'm just excited to be where I'm at and look forward to tomorrow."

  • Wolff charges into lead at U.S. Open after 65 Wolff charges into lead at U.S. Open after 65

    Matthew Wolff equalled a U.S. Open record and is on track to make further history after taking a two-stroke lead in the third round.

    Wolff carded a five-under 65 on Saturday, equalling the lowest round produced at Winged Foot at a U.S. Open.

    The 21-year-old American blitzed the front nine in New York, making five birdies before a consistent back nine included a bogey and birdie.

    Wolff's round came after hitting just two of 14 fairways, but he reached five under and a two-shot lead.

    His 65 matched the round Justin Thomas managed on Thursday to set the record at Winged Foot.

    If he wins, Wolff would become the first player to claim the U.S. Open on tournament debut since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

    Bryson DeChambeau (70) sits second at three under and Louis Oosthuizen (68) is the only other player under par at one under.

    DeChambeau opened his round with back-to-back bogeys before picking up a shot at the seventh.

    The American then made birdies at 16 and 17, but could only manage a bogey at the par-four 18th.

    Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Championship winner, is also in contention after mixing four birdies with two bogeys.

    Hideki Matsuyama (70), Xander Schauffele (70) and Harris English (72) are at even par, a shot ahead of Rory McIlroy (68).

    But it was a forgettable third round, and in particular back nine, for overnight leader Patrick Reed.

    The 2018 Masters champion was one under through nine holes before falling apart to shoot a 77 and sit at three over, tied for 11th.

    Reed bogeyed six of his final nine holes and had a double bogey at the 11th, where he struggled to recover from the rough.

    Thomas is at four over, while world number one Dustin Johnson was again unable to get much going, shooting a 72 to be at five over.

  • McIlroy senses U.S. Open chance after Winged Foot revival McIlroy senses U.S. Open chance after Winged Foot revival

    Rory McIlroy believes he can challenge for the U.S. Open title on Sunday, saying a third-round 68 has given him "a pretty good shot".

    The Northern Irishman began on Thursday with a three-under 67 but turned his numbers around in the second round when a 76 looked to have scuppered his hopes.

    On Saturday, moving day at Winged Foot, McIlroy had three birdies and just one dropped shot in the kind of solid performance he would sign for again in the final round.

    Four-time major winner McIlroy, who was 22 years old when he won the 2011 U.S. Open, was back on the leaderboard.

    On a course where American Matthew Wolff, just 21, was setting the pace, McIlroy was sensing the rekindling of a real opportunity this week.

    "Overall 68 out there is a really good score," he said. "I don't know where that's going to leave me at the end of the day, but I'm feeling pretty good that I've got a good chance going into [Sunday]."

    At one over par, McIlroy was watching the scoreboard to see where Wolff would finish the day.

    A startling 30 on the front nine took Wolff to five under par for the tournament at one stage.

    "No matter where I am at the end of the day, I feel like I've got a pretty good shot," McIlroy said.

    "You know, it doesn't take much around here ... someone gets off to a decent start, maybe one or two under through five and then the leader goes the other way, one or two over through five, and all of a sudden you're right in the thick of things."

    Asked what conditions he would want on Sunday, McIlroy said: "It's sort of a double-edged sword, right, because you would think that you'd want tougher conditions because it'll make it more difficult for the guys in front of you, but it also makes it more difficult for yourself.

    "I think looking at the forecast, the conditions are going to be pretty similar to today, which is fine. If I go out there tomorrow and shoot another 68, I won't be too far away."

    He was full of admiration for Wolff's front nine, describing his scoring as "awesome golf".

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