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Woods makes first U.S. Open reconnaissance at Winged Foot
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
Sun May 28, 1:33 PM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Tiger Woods, who has not played tournament golf since the U.S. Masters seven weeks ago, played a practice round on Saturday at Winged Foot Golf Club, venue for next month's U.S. Open.

According to his official Web site, the world number one was accompanied by swing coach Hank Haney as he mapped out a game plan for the second major championship of the year.

In his only previous appearance at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, Woods tied for 29th at the 1997 U.S.PGA Championship.

The par-70 West Course at Winged Foot has been lengthened by 334 yards since it staged the most recent of its four U.S. Opens in 1984.

The par-70 West Course at Winged Foot has been lengthened by 334 yards since it staged the most recent of its four U.S. Opens in 1984.

Two cuts of rough will line the narrow fairways of the 7,264-yard layout for the June 15-18 tournament, lessening the penalty for tee shots that just miss settling on the short grass but more seriously punishing wayward drives.

Woods, who tied for third at the Masters on April 9, has spent most of this month grieving for his father Earl, who died on May 3 after a long battle with cancer.

A lifelong mentor, adviser and friend to his son, Earl introduced Tiger to golf as a young child. Tiger has often attributed his mental toughness in tournaments to his former Green Beret father.

Before his father's death, Woods repeatedly said he was unlikely to return to action until next month's U.S. Open.

On Friday, he decided to skip next week's Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio for the first time in a decade.

THREE TITLES

A three-times winner of the prestigious event, Woods won the title three years in a row from 1999 and has finished no worse than joint fourth since 2002.

His decision not to play at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial means he will go into the U.S. Open following a nine-week break, the longest of his career.

Woods launched his 2006 campaign after taking an extended layoff over Christmas and New Year to recharge his batteries and spend valuable time with his father.

He did not touch a club for 24 days -- "The longest I've ever gone," the 30-year-old said at the time.

Davis Love III, who won the 1997 U.S. PGA Championship at Winged Foot, can identify with the emotions fellow American Woods will have to face on his return to tournament golf.

Love's father, a highly respected golf coach and PGA professional, died in a plane crash in 1988.

"Tiger is going to be in the same boat as me," Love said in a teleconference. "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, a 10-times major winner, will be chasing his third U.S. Open title after winning the 2000 crown by a record 15 strokes at Pebble Beach and his second at Bethpage State Park in 2002.

Read more at Reuters

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