Woods sets sights on British Open

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 16, 2003

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- It wasn't all that long ago when it seemed as if Tiger Woods would win every major championship.

Now it seems he can't win any of them.

For the first time in four years, Woods is not the reigning champion in any of the four major championships. That was ensured Sunday when he finished 11 shots behind Jim Furyk in the U.S. Open.

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Woods came into the tournament the defending champion, looking for his third Open title in four years. He left frustrated, but already eagerly looking forward to next month's British Open.

''That's my ultimate goal is to win championships,'' Woods said. ''These are the biggest championships.''

A terrible weekend on the greens proved to be the undoing for Woods, who was in contention after a 66 on Friday but then shot rounds of 75 and 72.

He was questioned for his conservative play, but it was a balky putter that never allowed him to mount any kind of charge that the masses at Olympia Fields so eagerly anticipated.

When Woods finally decided to get aggressive on Sunday, he fell apart on the greens. Woods took seven putts in a stretch of two holes alone, and had 67 putts in his final two rounds.

''When you're playing bad, it's a lonely world out there,'' Woods said.

He hit his driver six times in a bid to get back into the tournament, after insisting for three rounds that the rarely used club would be of no use on a relatively short Open course.

''Why not? I'd had enough of this,'' he said.

It turns out Woods was right. The driver got him closer to the greens, but once on them he couldn't do a thing.

Officially, Woods took 32 putts on Sunday; he took 35 in the third round. On the ninth and 10th holes alone, he hit his putter seven times.

''It's not like I'm playing and can't hit a shot,'' Woods said. ''I'm hitting good shots and it's a matter of making some putts.''

Woods hit the driver only one time on Saturday -- on the 18th hole when it didn't matter. He ended up with a fat 75 that was his worst score as a pro in the Open.

On Sunday, he pulled it out on the first hole and promptly made a birdie. But he missed makable putts on the next three holes and was never able to get anything going.

Realistically, Woods never had a chance to defend his title after falling 11 shots off the lead. He would have needed the greatest comeback in major championship history to win.

But Woods went out Sunday hanging on to the slimmest of hopes that somehow, somewhere, something dramatic would take place.

''If I would have had absolutely everything going my way, then maybe,'' Woods said. ''You have to get lucky. You have to play one of the best rounds you've ever played in your life and have absolutely everything go your way at the same time. The moons and the stars have to line up perfectly.''

Woods is headed for the Buick Classic, which starts Thursday in Harrison, N.Y. And he said his hunger to win may be greater than ever after playing four straight major championships without bringing home a trophy.

''I've never thought it to be simple,'' Woods said. ''Anyone who plays the game of golf knows its not easy and it's very fickle.''