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Tiger Woods expects Oakmont to be tougher than Augusta

Tiger Woods expects Oakmont Country Club to provide a tougher test at this year's U.S. Open than Augusta National, permanent home of the Masters.

Oakmont, which will host the U.S. Open for a record eighth time from June 14-17, is a daunting par-70 layout in Pennsylvania that can play to 7,230 yards.

"It's a great test, but has a lot of blind tee and second shots," world number one Woods said in his monthly newsletter on Tuesday. "Overall, I'd say it's a lot harder than Augusta National.

"It's an old-style course and I kept trying to figure out where the USGA (United States Golf Association) was going to put the pin placements for the U.S. Open in June. I'm still not sure."

Par-72 Augusta National, which measures 7,445 yards, is the third longest layout in major history.

Woods played Oakmont for the first time on Sunday with his swing coach Hank Haney and had another look on Monday during a corporate outing.

He was particularly keen to assess its 288-yard eighth hole, which will become the longest par-three in U.S. Open history.

"I managed to hit the green with a three-wood," he said. "Hey, I refuse to hit driver on any par-three!"

Twice U.S. Open champion Woods has not played tournament golf since tying for second at the Masters earlier this month in punishing, fast-running conditions at Augusta National.

Hunting his third consecutive major, he briefly led by one in the final round after making a birdie at the second hole before finishing two strokes behind winner Zach Johnson.

"That was definitely one of the most draining weeks I've ever had in a major because the conditions were so difficult," Woods said. "That was one hell of a test.

"But the tournament committee kept it fair. The pin placements were a touch softer than usual, about two to three feet easier, which is everything. At least they gave us a chance."

While Augusta National is renowned for its premium on the short game with its slick, heavily contoured greens, Woods was surprised by the speed of the putting surfaces at Oakmont.

"They were running about 10-and-a-half on the Stimpmeter (a device that gauges green speed), and they were plugged last week," the 12-times major winner said.

"I don't think they were designed for that kind of speed, so it should be interesting in June.

"Overall, I think the course is in phenomenal shape considering they had snow last week. If they get some good weather, the greens should be good in three weeks."

Oakmont will be staging the U.S. Open for the first time since Ernie Els triumphed there in 1994 after a playoff with Britain's Colin Montgomerie and American Loren Roberts.

Australia's Geoff Ogilvy will be defending the title he won by a shot at Winged Foot last year.


April 25, 2007

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