Woods to face big test at Olympic for US Open

Tiger Woods couldn’t stop talking on Tuesday about how the U.S.

Open presents the toughest test of the year.

If that’s the case, then how he fares at The Olympic Club could

go a long way in helping him learn how close he is to returning to

the top of golf.

Woods took a big step two weeks ago at Muirfield Village, when

he rallied from a four-shot deficit at the Memorial and holed an

amazing chip for birdie late in the round for his second win of the

season. That was enough to make him the betting favorite when the

U.S. Open begins on Thursday.

Then again, he won Bay Hill in his final start before the

Masters, and he looked ordinary in a tie for 40th at the

Masters.

The difference?

”When I went into Augusta, I did not feel comfortable hitting

the ball up,” Woods said. ”And I got back into a lot of my old

patterns. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. But that’s what made

playing Muirfield so nice. I had those shots, and I was doing it

the correct way. And I had compression, hitting the ball high and

hitting it long. That was fun.”

Olympic is all about hitting it in the fairway, and the right

spots on the green.

The golf course is longer than when Woods tied for 18th in 1998,

though that isn’t the biggest change. The greens have been

resurfaced, and they roll so fast that it’s difficult to get the

ball close. Plus, the U.S. Golf Association has shaved some areas

off the green to form large collection areas. A slight miss could

send the ball some 30 yards away. Woods told of the par-3 13th

during a practice round in which he hit the green, and the ball

rolled down a slope and just inside a hazard.

”This is probably the hardest test that we play all year,”

Woods said.

He plays the opening two rounds with Phil Mickelson and Masters

champion Bubba Watson, who says being in such a high-powered group

might make it feel like a Sunday at Augusta National. Woods and

Mickelson have played together in majors, such as the final round

of the Masters in 2009 and the opening rounds of the 2008 U.S.

Open.

For Woods, it’s all about getting in position for Sunday, with a

chance to end his longest drought in the majors and get to No.

15.

As for chit-chat with Mickelson, his longest rival?

”I don’t think we’re going to talk about a lot,” Woods said.

”This is a major championship. We’ve got work to do. … It’s such

a test playing in this championship. I think this is one of those

championships that I think the guys talk the least to one another

because it’s so difficult.”