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Pinehurst history and Carolina heat on Tiger Woods’ side at U.S. Open

PINEHURST, N.C. – It’s become increasingly more difficult to contort reality enough to consider Tiger Woods a legitimate threat to win his fourth U.S. Open title this week, but if there is a major championship venue that could somehow, some way, resurrect the major magic, it would be Pinehurst.

First, Woods’ record at the No. 2 course is beyond encouraging with a tie for third place in 1999 and a runner-up showing in ’05 when he finished two shots behind winner Michael Campbell. He missed the 2014 championship at Pinehurst following back surgery earlier that season.

More importantly for Woods, who has struggled with physical limitations following a 2021 car crash and fusion surgery on his right ankle, the No. 2 course offers a relatively flat walk — at least compared to Augusta National and last month’s PGA Championship at Valhalla — and a favorable forecast with temperatures expected to be in the upper 90s all week.

“It’s like home. Hot and humid is what we deal with every single day at home in Florida, so that’s nothing new,” Woods said. “It’s just making sure that I keep hydrated and the mental tax that the heat will bring. It’s going to bring it to all of us, not just me. Everyone is going to be tested.

“I would rather play in hot, humid conditions any day than anything cold. I think pretty much anyone my age ... will definitely like it a little hotter.”

Woods did add that the unique challenges of Pinehurst’s domed greens will likely lead to longer rounds, which is probably not great for a 48-year-old with multiple injuries.

“It’s going to make for long rounds with the falloffs and runoffs on the greens,” he said. “The rounds time-wise are going to be a little bit longer. Then when you’re out in the heat for that length and period of time, that’s going to take a little bit of wear and tear on you.”

Tiger Woods echoed comments from Rory McIlroy and the PGA Tour that last week’s meeting was “productive.”

But if Woods’ history at Pinehurst and this week’s conditions provide a measure of hope for the 15-time major champion, there is still an issue with his form. He doesn’t have a top-10 finish in a major since he won the 2019 Masters and his last four Grand Slam finishes include a missed cut (2022 Open Championship), withdrawal (’23 Masters), 60th (’24 Masters) and missed cut (’24 PGA).

“I feel like I have the strength to be able to [compete]. It’s just a matter of doing it,” he said. “This golf course is going to test every single aspect of your game, especially mentally, and just the mental discipline that it takes to play this particular golf course, it’s going to take a lot.”