Tiger leads world’s best to tricky Merion

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ARDMORE, Pennsylvania: World No. 1 Tiger Woods tries to end a five-year major title drought in next week’s 113th US Open at Merion, where a mix of formidable long and short holes will test golf’s best.

Woods has won four titles this season, pulling him four wins shy of matching Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82 PGA titles.

But he has not taken a major since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, where he won a playoff on a broken leg.

A major sex scandal, repeated leg injuries and a swing change to ease the pressure on his 37-year-old body followed and at times Woods has found the form that brought him 14 major titles—second only to the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.

“My game is coming around, and to have won seven times the last couple years is something I’m proud of,” Woods said.

Woods has won at Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill and the Players Championship this year and shared fourth at the Masters for the third time in the past four years, but crashed to a share of 65th at last week’s Memorial.

“I didn’t putt very well,” Woods said. “I thought the greens didn’t look that fast, but they were putting fast. I could never get the speed of them. It was just one of those weeks. It happens.”

But it was a poor time to struggle on the greens, knowing that the US Golf Association figures to have Merion’s putting surfaces as fast as lightning on a 6,996-yard, par-70 layout where accuracy will be at a premium.

Some critics say the course is too small to be a formidable major tournament host, but Nicklaus is among those who believe the historic course with the wicker basket-topped flagsticks will provide plenty of heartaches for golfers.

“Merion will do just fine,” Nicklaus said. “Merion has got six or seven holes that you can abuse. They have got six or seven holes that will abuse you. It will be a really exciting Open because of the nature of the golf course.”Afp

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