Originally created 07/06/06

Woods hopes Western Open will serve as springboard



LEMONT, Ill. - Tiger Woods went spearfishing. He spent time with his family, too.

And yes, he watched the final rounds of the U.S. Open after missing the cut.

"That was my punishment," he said Wednesday.

He hopes to do better this weekend at the Western Open, which starts today. The same goes for Phil Mickelson, whose meltdown on the final hole at Winged Foot cost him the U.S. Open. Woods and Mickelson head a star-packed field that includes Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk.

A three-time Western Open winner, Woods hopes to rediscover his stroke after shooting 12-over par and failing to make the cut in a major for the first time in 10 years as a professional.

The rough going on the course came during the most difficult time away from it.

Woods took nine weeks off between the Masters Tournament and U.S. Open to tend to his father Earl, who died of cancer on May 3, and he went a month without picking up a golf club because it was just too painful. It reminded him of his father and of his loss.

He needed a break.

"I'm sure it gets easier, but it's something you'll never forget," Woods said. "I don't think it's ever something you really want to forget or every really want to truly put behind you because having a parent that is so loving in your life and that you love so much, you never, ever, forget that."

"Life lessons always come about, each and everyday," he added. "I've talked to a bunch of friends who have gone through it before, and they think about their lost parent everyday. It happens. That's something I've done and I will continue to do probably for the rest of my life."

Mickelson would probably like to forget his performance at the U.S. Open. He led by one heading into the final hole before a double-bogey dropped him into a tie for second with Colin Montgomerie and Jim Furyk, one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.

Mickelson used a driver instead of a 4-wood on the 18th tee, and the ball landed off to the left, near the hospitality tents. Then, he went for the green, rather than a safe shot, and hit a branch. And his next shot landed in a bunker.

Furyk was disappointed, too. His putting game deserted him after the first 12 holes on the final day of the U.S. Open.

"I'm proud of the way I played," said Furyk, the defending Western Open champion. "I didn't close the door like I could have."

Woods thought Montgomerie should have won. The ball was on the right side of the fairway, on a flat spot, with a good angle.

"It doesn't get any better than that," Woods said. "With Phil on the tee, anything can still happen. He could still make bogey on the last hole and lose the tournament. I thought it was Monty's tournament. Put the ball on the green and it's over. Obviously, that didn't happen."

Woods used the past few weeks to regroup.

Besides spearfishing and spending time with family, Woods worked on his game, and exchanged text messages with U.S. Women's Open winner Annika Sorenstam.

The British Open is later this month. But first comes the Western.

"I've had some good success here," Woods said. "Even the times I've played poorly coming in, this golf course has allowed me to turn it around. So hopefully, this will be one of those years where I can really play well and win the championship and then head off to the British for some good, positive vibes."