Monday, November 29, 1999

Woods set for late teeoff as U.S. Open gets underway

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Triple champion Tiger Woods prepared for an afternoon tee-off to launch his bid for a 15th major title as the 110th U.S. Open began under overcast skies at Pebble Beach on Thursday.Woods, who romped to a 15-stroke victory when the U.S. Open was last held at this venue in 2000, was scheduled to set off in a high-profile grouping on the first hole at 1336 local (2036 GMT).The American world number one has been drawn with third-ranked Briton Lee Westwood, winner of last week's St. Jude Classic, and South African Ernie Els for the first two rounds.Although Woods is comfortably the best player of his generation, he has several question marks hovering over his form this week.He has played in only four PGA Tour events this season, with a best finish of joint fourth at the U.S. Masters in April and a missed cut at Quail Hollow, after he took nearly five months off following revelations of his marital infidelity.The 34-year-old has struggled for accuracy off the tee while battling a lingering neck injury and he recently parted company with his long-time swing coach Hank Haney.However he has been greatly encouraged by his practice sessions in recent weeks."I'm very excited about how it's progressed," Woods told reporters in the build-up to the year's second major. "The more time I've been able to practise and play, it's starting to solidify and I'm actually really excited to tee it up.GREAT PAIRING"I've got a great pairing this week. I think we're going to have a good time. Westwood is playing great, he just won last week, and Ernie's been playing great as well this year."American world number two Phil Mickelson, in the eyes of many the best player in the game over the last nine months, has been grouped with three-times major winner Padraig Harrington and U.S. PGA champion Yang Yong-eun for the first two rounds.Left-hander Mickelson, Irishman Harrington and South Korean Yang will tee off from the 10th hole at 0806 (1506 GMT).Other notable threesomes include U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, British Open winner Stewart Cink and South Korean An Byeong-hun, winner of last year's U.S. amateur title; and Spaniard Sergio Garcia, Britain's Paul Casey and American world number four Steve Stricker.Fiji's former world number one Vijay Singh has been grouped with Americans Davis Love III and long-hitting Dustin Johnson, winner of the last two Pebble Beach National Pro-Am titles.The first blow of the 2010 U.S. Open was struck by South African Deane Pappas who pushed his tee shot into the first cut of rough on the right at the par-four opening hole.American Gary Woodland also ended up in the right rough while Australian Paul Sheehan pulled his utility wood well left of the fairway.Sunny conditions and light winds are forecast for later in the day.(Editing by Clare Fallon;To query or comment on this story email more news on Reuters India, click
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