Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Through much of the 1973 season, the New York Mets were a hapless, last-place lot. Then, suddenly, they got hot, rallying around a now-famous battle cry coined by their star reliever, Tug McGraw: “Ya gotta believe.” The Mets stormed back to win their division and eventually the National League pennant before losing the World Series in seven games to the Oakland A’s.Thirty-six years later, a similar sentiment is in the air at Bethpage Black, about a 35-minute drive east of the old Shea Stadium. If anybody is going to beat the new-and-improved Tiger Woods at the 2009 U.S. Open, his would-be rival had better believe.   “Nobody walks around thinking, ‘We can’t win this week because Tiger’s playing,’ ” says Geoff Ogilvy, who won the U.S. Open in 2006, when Woods missed the cut. “I think everyone appreciates how good he is, knows he’s going to be in contention and hopes to get there with him.“But he’s been close in a lot majors in the last couple of years … and not won. So it’s a feeling that’s he's beatable.”Beatable, perhaps, but still the overwhelming favorite. Woods won at Bethpage by three strokes in 2002, when he was the only player to break par. He’s the defending U.S. Open champion. He hit more fairways than Iron Byron two weeks ago at Muirfield Village and proved that his work with instructor Hank Haney is finally starting to pay off. Though Tiger’s swing today is different from the swing he had during his most dominant years, the sense of inevitability—that Tiger will win, must win—is beginning to return.     How do players deal with that? For one, by not thinking about it. “The only person I can control this week, and the only person, to be honest, I’m concerned about, certainly concerned in a big way about, is myself,” said Padraig Harrington, the three-time major champion. That will be easier said than done for the Irishman, who in the first two rounds will be playing with Woods and the legion of fans, reporters, cameramen and security that he attracts.   Harrington added that it would be foolish for him or any of the other 155 players to worry "about somebody else.” He didn’t need to define who that “somebody else” might be. More From Tiger Tracker | Tiger wins 2002 U.S. Open | Photos: Practice Rounds

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