Woods, on crutches, expects to play in US Open

Tiger Woods says he’ll be ready to go for the U.S. Open.

Good thing for Woods there’s time to get healthy.

The golfing great hasn’t hit a ball in about two weeks. Woods
needs crutches and a walking boot for relief on his aching left
leg. He won’t even start leg training until the end of next
week.

But Woods expects to tee off at the U.S. Open June 16-19 at
Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

”You just play through these things,” Woods said. ”There’s a
difference between being in pain and being injured.”

That’s why Woods has shut himself down to prepare for the
major.

Woods is bothered by pain in his left knee, left Achilles’
tendon, tightening in his calf, and has a sore lower back. He says
doctors have not mentioned leg surgery. But he doubts he’ll play
the Memorial next week in Dublin, Ohio.

Woods said he’ll start training by the end of next week. How his
leg responds will determine when he can start hitting balls again –
all but ruling out the Memorial.

”I’ve had four surgeries on it,” Woods said. ”Obviously, it’s
not what it was when I was little.”

That means Woods would go to the U.S. Open with little
competition, although this is nothing new for him. In 2008, he had
arthroscopic surgery after the Masters and didn’t play again until
the U.S. Open. Doctors discovered a double stress fracture in his
left tibia in the weeks before the major. Going against his
doctor’s advice, Woods not only played the U.S. Open, he won it at
Torrey Pines in a 19-hole playoff.

Now, he says his left leg is not nearly as bad as it was
then.

His golf, however, is a different story.

In the 11 tournaments Woods played before the U.S. Open, he won
eight times, was runner-up twice and didn’t finish out of the top
five. In the 11 tournaments before this U.S. Open, he has only five
finishes in the top 10.

Woods said he was more worried about his health in 2008.

”I’m a lot better off,” Woods said. ”I feel that in the next
week or so, I can start getting back toward that and start
practicing pain free. That’s where I’m at.

Woods spoke Tuesday at Aronimink Golf Club to promote the
upcoming AT&T National.

Woods withdrew after only nine holes this month at The Players
Championship. He also fell out of the top 10 rankings for the first
time in 14 years.

He has been No. 1 for 623 weeks in his career, by far the
longest of any golfer since the rankings began in 1986. He had been
No. 1 from June 2005 until Lee Westwood of England supplanted him
last November.

”I haven’t played. It’s one of the reasons I’ve fallen as far
as I have,” Woods said. ”When I did play, I haven’t played well.
Winning takes care of all of that.”

He acknowledged he did come back too early for The Players
Championship. He hurt himself on the opening tee shot at Sawgrass.
Woods’ status was borderline for the tournament to begin with, but
he pressed on and did further damage. He won’t risk additional
injury to the leg.

”It’d certainly be nice to come up here and play practice
rounds,” he said, ”and do all the other prep I do for the
majors.”

Not a chance this week, even on a gorgeous Tuesday.

Woods posted on Twitter that he would donate $1 million to his
foundation if no reporters asked him about his leg. There was no
chance of that on the very first question. Woods later posted on
Twitter he would donate the money anyway.

Dan Gelston can be reached at http://twitter.com/apgelston