US Open
US Open
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US Open 2005
Ernie Els seeking third US Open title
Pinehurt's greens will be key challenge
Reteif Goosen quietly confident of chances
Padraig Harrington says Pinehurst harder than Augusta
Pinehurst will prove to be a tough test
USGA promise a fair test for US Open
Tiger Woods in confident mood
Phil Mickelson returns to a special Pinehurst
Padraig Harrington hoping to break through
Payne Stewart's image on 72nd hole flag
Retief Goosen looking for title defence
Payne Stewart forever linked to Pinehurst
Tiger Woods set on new records
Leading contenders for the 2005 US Open

Tiger Woods in confident mood

Tiger Woods does not understand some of the negative press he has received this year and fancies his chances of winning a third U.S. Open later in the week.

The 29-year-old American, who reclaimed the world number one ranking from Vijay Singh on Monday, is also bidding to match Ben Hogan as the only player to win the first two majors of the year on two occasions.

"I feel very good," the U.S. Masters champion told a news conference here on Tuesday. "I've hit the ball quite well this week and my practice sessions last week were really positive.

"I also played pretty good at the Memorial (tournament)," Woods added in a reference to his tie for third two weeks ago.

"I like my chances and I'm excited about this opportunity this week. I've been playing well and this entire year has been a process, an evolution of getting better."

Woods, who spent much of last year revamping his swing for the second time since turning professional, has won three times on the PGA Tour this season.

With one of those victories coming in a playoff for the Masters in April and lifting his career haul of majors to nine, he cannot fathom media criticism of his 2005 form.

"This entire year, it's been amazing," he said. "From what people have said and what I've read so far, it looks like I haven't won a tournament this year.

"It looks like I have no game left so I might as well quit and retire. But I won a major this year, and that's pretty good.

"I know some of the guys doubt whether or not I can win a tournament but I've had that doubt before and I've dealt with it before."

Woods, winner of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000 and for a second time at Bethpage Black in 2002, played down any talk of his winning all four majors in the same year.

"You don't look at it that way," he said. "You're trying to prepare for one tournament at a time, whatever tournament you've entered.

"It would be nice to win all four in one year but I've seen all four on my mantle and no one else can say that."

Woods completed the so-called 'Tiger Slam' with his victory at the 2001 Masters, earning him all four majors at one time. He had won the U.S. Open, the British Open and the U.S. PGA Championship in 2000.

Asked whether he had lost any sense of fun playing golf at the highest level over the last nine years, he replied: "I'm having more fun now.

"I love playing, I love competing. I love the thrill of the hunt, getting out there and trying to win a tournament. That's a rush and, to me, that is as much fun as fun gets."

Woods, who tied for third when the U.S. Open was last held at Pinehurst in 1999, believes this week's tournament will provide a stronger challenge.

"The golf course is playing a little bit more difficult this year with the rough," he said. "It seems like it's higher, thicker and the ball seems to be settling down in the bottom every time.

"Putting the ball in play is going to be at a premium and getting the ball to the green is not an easy task. The guy who hits the most greens is probably going to either be the winner or be right there with a chance on the back nine (on Sunday)."

The 105th U.S. Open starts on Thursday.