SOUTHAMPTON — Tiger Woods, returning to the US Open after a two-year absence and 10 years removed from his 14th major triumph, says just having the chance to compete is "pure bonus."
The former world number one watched last year's US Open at Erin Hills from afar, still in the early stages of his recovery from spinal fusion surgery and unsure if he would resume his golf career.
"I had no expectation of getting this far," said Woods, who numbers three US Open victories in 2000, 2002 and 2008 among his 14 majors. "A lot of this is pure bonus because of where I was."
As recently as last September, Woods still didn't know if competitive golf was in his future. It makes it a little easier for the intensely competitive superstar to take the ups and downs of his comeback in stride.
"Golf is always frustrating," Woods told reporters on Tuesday at Shinnecock Hills, where the US Open begins on Thursday.
The 42-year-old was in a genial mood as he discussed his game, although he was curt when asked about progress in his life since his arrest in May of last year for driving under the influence of prescription drugs.
"It's gotten better," Woods responded in a tone offering no opportunity for further discussion.
Woods has shown flashes of brilliance in nine official PGA Tour events this year but has yet to bring together every aspect of his game in one week to achieve a victory.
"There's always something that isn't quite right and that's where we, as players, have to make adjustments. You've seen the tournaments I've played in this year, there's always something.
"Hopefully this is one of those weeks where I put it all together and even it out and we'll see what happens."
Woods put on his best ball-striking display of the season at the Memorial two weeks ago. But he struggled on the greens and after he electrified the crowd at Muirfield Village by briefly putting his name atop the leaderboard on Saturday he finished tied for 23rd.
"What I did at Memorial, I just didn't feel comfortable over it," Woods said. "I couldn't see my lines. And those greens were quick. I just didn't feel comfortable and didn't hit many good putts. I hit a lot of bad ones."
Woods said he'd worked hard on his stroke during his week off.
"Just had to hit a lot of putts, just put in the legwork, and I was able to do that," he said. "My stroke feels good, so hopefully (I'll) hit good, solid putts and see what happens."
– Chances to win –
Woods' season to date includes a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship in March and a tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
In search of his first title since 2013, he says assessing the success of his comeback so far is a question of deciding whether to consider the glass half-empty or half-full.
"There's two ways of looking at that," he said. "I've given myself chances to win, which I didn't know if I was ever going to do again.
"Then again, not happy with the fact that I didn't win because I loved how it felt being there.
"I had a chance at Valspar. I made a nice bomb there at 17. Bay Hill, I was rolling with a few holes to go. So, yeah, I've had my opportunities.
"Also, I'm very thankful to have had those opportunities. I didn't know if I was going to have them again."
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