Woods is looking to rebound

Published 6:01 pm Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tiger Woods kept a low profile in the days leading up to the British Open.

He hopes everyone will get a chance to see him this weekend.

There was a minor frenzy when Woods showed up in front of the Royal Liverpool clubhouse Wednesday, stroking a few putts on the practice green under the watchful eye on his caddie and coach.

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Everyone else was watching, too. Fans clamored for a prime spot behind the ropes. Photographers angled for a clear shot. Even a few players stopped what they were doing, as if looking for signs that Woods can bounce back from his troubles at Winged Foot.

The defending British champion missed the cut last month in the U.S. Open, where consecutive rounds of 76 sent him home early for the first time in a major.

“I took a lot of time off prior to the U.S. Open and I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as I wanted to in competition,” Woods said. “But I fixed those mistakes … and I got back into the competitive flow again.”

We’ll have to take him at his word. Getting a glimpse of Woods has been rare at Royal Liverpool. He arrived last weekend when there were no crowds, playing Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

The next two days, he teed off so early that he was done before most fans arrived at the course. On Wednesday, he didn’t even play, showing up in the late afternoon to hit balls on the range and stroke a few putts.

Woods was in jeopardy of another missed cut at the Western Open two weeks ago until shooting 67-66 to work his way up the leaderboard. He finished two behind, but it was still a step in the right direction after his troubles at Winged Foot.

“It’s nice when you play four rounds,” he said. “I had two extra days there at the Western to get back into the flow of things, and the weekend I played great. So I feel like I’m back into playing again after taking such a long time off.”

The reason for the long layoff — Woods has played only six competitive rounds since the Masters — was the May 3 death of his father.

Woods still cannot shake questions about his father, how he is coping and how long it might take him to come to terms. But in this case, some of the questions brought back good memories, and pertinent ones.

Earl Woods accompanied his 19-year-old son to Carnoustie in 1995 for the Scottish Open, his first taste of links golf. Tiger opened with rounds of 69-71 before the wind picked up, scores shot up and he tied for 29th, 17 shots out of the lead.

“He absolutely loved it when I played at Carnoustie, because it was one of the very few times that he thought I was able to use my imagination and create shots,” Woods said.

That’s what will be required of Woods at Royal Liverpool.

This is the brown British Open.

A heat wave in Britain — the temperature reached 91 degrees on the eve of the tournament — caused the rough to die, leaving wispy strands of native grasses and fairways that are struggling to stay alive.