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Tiger expects some 'ping pong' on Pinehurst's tough greens

Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images Sport / Getty

If you're into an extremely challenging U.S. Open that causes carnage among the world's best players, Tiger Woods' press conference at Pinehurst on Tuesday was likely music to your ears.

The domed greens at the iconic layout repel even some of the best approaches, leaving incredibly difficult shots from the tightly-mown run-off areas around the greens. That challenge - along with the speed of the putting surfaces - has Woods expecting similar scenes from his last event at Pinehurst: the 2005 U.S. Open.

"The last few days playing practice rounds - I'm guilty as well as the rest of the guys I've played with - we've putted off a lot of greens," the legendary golfer said. "It depends on how severe the USGA wants to make this, how close they want to get us up to those sides. I foresee, just like in 2005, watching some of the guys play ping pong back and forth."

The unique situations that Pinehurst presents made Woods focus more on his short game in the buildup to the event, but he admitted it's tough to simulate the course's layout back home in Florida. So he took a scouting trip to North Carolina last week to get comfortable around the greens.

"Did a little bit of work on chipping and putting, but nothing can simulate what we have here this particular week," Woods said. "The amount of little shots and knobs and run-offs and either using wedges or long irons or woods around the greens, or even putts - I'm sorry putter - 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."

While Woods hasn't won in two previous trips to Pinehurst for the U.S. Open, he has experienced a great deal of success at the Donald Ross masterpiece: He finished in a tie for third in 1999 and backed that up with a second-place showing in 2005.

But Woods has experienced several injuries since then, so he's a long way from the player he was on his previous trips to Pinehurst. Outside of the Masters, he has yet to finish four rounds at a major since his car accident in 2021. However, he said Tuesday he feels like he can make a run at a 16th major title.

"I do feel like I have the strength to be able to do it, it's just a matter of doing it," Woods said. "This golf course is going to test every single aspect of your game - especially mentally. Just the mental discipline it's going to take to play this particular golf course - and it's going to take a lot - we've been working on that and making sure I understand the game plan."

The 48-year-old begins his U.S. Open on Thursday at 7:29 a.m. alongside Matthew Fitzpatrick and Will Zalatoris.

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