Tiger Woods hasn’t won a major championship since he beat Rocco Mediate – and the rest of the field – on one leg to win the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Might that 15th major come nearly exactly five years later at Pinehurst?
“Pinehurst, I’ve had a third and a second, and hopefully it will keep improving like it has,” Woods said after finishing third at the Turkish Airlines Open.
2014 sets up well for Woods if he is going to continue his assault on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories. While he’s always a contender at The Masters, Woods has also won previously at Hoylake and Valhalla, the hosts of The Open Championship and the PGA Championship.
But Pinehurst is right there in the mix as well, and Woods feels pretty good about his game entering the 2014 season.
“A couple of years ago there were a lot of guys saying I could never win again,” Woods told the media. “I’ve got eight wins since then, so it’s been good and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made.”
“Pinehurst, I’ve had a third and a second, and hopefully it will keep improving like it has.” -Tiger Woods
Woods finished two shots back of Payne Stewart in 1999 after making a charge with birdies on 14 and 16, but failed to get up-and-down from a bunker to make bogey after missing a short putt on the par-3 17th, a hole Stewart birdied with a similar putt to take a 1-shot lead over Phil Mickelson, a lead that held up with Stewart’s heroics on 18.
In 2005, it seemed like Retief Goosen was on his way to a third U.S. Open title until his blew up on Sunday. Woods made a Sunday charge, but Kiwi Michael Campbell, with birdies on 10, 13 and 17, held off that charge to prevail, later telling us at Merion in 2013, “The heart of the week was holding off Tiger. I had the best player in the world chasing me down.”
Pinehurst No. 2 has proven to be a favorite of Woods’s.
“Fun golf is Pinehurst,” Woods said a few years ago. “Fun golf is playing links golf. Fun golf is learning to how to maneuver the ball on the ground and give yourself options. One of the hardest up-and-downs is when you have options. You have so many different ways to play and you see a lot of pros really mess up easy shots because they have so many different options.”
Woods isn’t the only all-timer to set his focus on Pinehurst. Phil Mickelson has already gone on the record that he will shorten his 2014 playing schedule to focus on playing well on No. 2 in 2014.
Woods has won just once on Pinehurst grounds – the “Big I,”, or the 1992 Insurance Youth Golf Classic, which was played on Pinehurst No. 7 – and he was 17. During those rounds, his gallery swelled to 75 people. He was hounded for autographs even then, saying, “The price of fame, I guess,” with a smile.