2006: Tiger spreads his wings in New York

Fair to say the Forecaddie was a bit surprised when the May 26 deadline to enter this week’s Memorial Tournament came and passed with no “T. Woods” commitment. After all, it seemed all the stars would be aligned for Woods to play his first tournament after the loss of his father, Earl, at Jack’s Place in Ohio, where the gracious and legendary host, who lost his own dad at age 30, could provide something of a comforting shoulder.

Immediately, folks began to wonder whether Tiger even would be back to play in the U.S. Open June 15-18, but those questions were quickly answered when he visited Winged Foot for a couple of practice rounds over the weekend. (World No. 2 Phil Mickelson also was on the grounds, which should tell you how seriously these guys take this major stuff.)

While in the Big Apple, Woods also took in a Yankees game as the guest of Derek Jeter, who entertained by delivering his 2,000th hit in a loss to the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. (Losing to the Royals? That’s like getting outdriven by Fred Funk.)

Insiders tell the Man Out Front that even though Tiger has had a long layoff since the Masters, he looks and feels fine physically. In fact, the Forecaddie hears he needed only a 9-iron and two wedges to get home on the last three holes at Winged Foot’s famed West Course, which measure out at 467, 449 and 452 yards, respectively.

“He feels good physically,” says swing coach Hank Haney, who accompanied Woods over two practice rounds. “Mentally it remains to be seen . . . how long it will take him to heal. I just know there’s no way he won’t think of his father when he plays golf.”

One sidenote: The U.S. Open ends June 18, which happens to be Father’s Day.

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