SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Open week arrived at Torrey Pines on Monday, when Tiger Woods had to share the city-owned course with fellow competitors and a gallery that grew at every hole.
If anyone didn’t realize that Woods had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee two days after the Masters, they wouldn’t have known by the way he played the South Course’s front nine in a practice round.
“He didn’t say ‘Ow’ to me, so it must be good,” cracked Bubba Watson, who played with Woods and amateur Jordan Cox from Stanford.
The threesome teed off at about 7 a.m. under an overcast sky and with no wind coming off the Pacific Ocean. Woods pulled out after nine holes, spent some time on the putting green and then walked toward the Lodge at Torrey Pines at about 10:15 a.m., accompanied by two San Diego policemen, caddie Steve Williams and swing coach Hank Haney.
Woods didn’t speak to reporters.
“He looked good,” Haney said. “He’ll be OK. No problems so far.”
On Wednesday, Woods played his first round of golf since knee surgery, getting in 17-plus holes riding in a cart. He played in solitude that day amid tight security, with no media or spectators allowed on the course. He stopped only when he saw a small group of people with cameras waiting around the 18th green.
On Monday, Woods scrambled in and out of bunkers and crushed some drives. He didn’t appear to favor his knee.
“I don’t think the surgery affected him at all,” Cox said. “He’s hitting it really, really well right now.”
Woods didn’t hit every fairway. He played mostly tee to green, not bothering to putt out on every hole. The three did spend time chipping and putting toward anticipated pin placements at Torrey Pines, the first city-owned course to host the U.S. Open.
Most of all, he looked fit.
“He’s got a whole career to worry about,” Watson said. “I don’t think he’s going to mess it up. That’s what he did, he pulled out of Memorial because he felt he wasn’t ready, and if he wasn’t ready here, he wouldn’t show up, no matter what the course was, no matter what the crowd wants, no matter what the media wants. He’s not going to end his career on some stupidity.”
Woods has been dominating at Torrey Pines dating to his days playing in the Junior World Golf Championships. He’s won the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines six times, including four straight.
“Tiger always plays well,” Watson said.
The 20-year-old Cox said his round was “Surreal. Kind of everything I’ve dreamed of, everything I thought it would be. It’s pretty cool, you know, everybody following us around, the clapping. It was a little nerve-racking at the beginning. You just get used to it and just go about your business.”
Asked what score it would take to win on Sunday, Watson said, “I hope it’s whatever I shoot.”
After mentioning that the greens could get firmer and faster as the week goes on, Watson added: “Whatever Tiger shoots, normally.”
Woods and Phil Mickelson, the Nos. 1 and 2 players in the world, will be paired together for the first two rounds with No. 3 Adam Scott.