Tiger Woods Feels For Injured Warrior Durant, Eyes US Open Title

Jun 12 - by AFP for SportPesa News

Former world number one knows as much as any athlete about the loneliness, frustration and challenges of battling back from injury as he prepares to hunt his second Major of the season at Peeble Beach

Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates winning the Masters during the final roubnd at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. PHOTO/AFP

  • Ahead of the US Open, Koepka, 29, has a chance to do what only one golfer has done before him -- win a third straight US Open title
  • The former world number one symphasised with Durant, who has suffered an Achilles injury, had only just returned to the Golden State Warriors line-up after a month-long layoff with a calf problem
  • Having cemented his return from the injury wilderness with his 15th major title at the Masters, Woods says he's "trending in the right direction"

PEBBLE BEACH, United States- The 119th US Open at Pebble Beach has the makings of a classic as Tiger Woods returns to the scene of a signature triumph to take on a new generation of stars led by two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka.

At the same time, Woods knows as much as any athlete about the loneliness, frustration and challenges of battling back from injury.

So when Kevin Durant limped out of game five of the  NBA Finals on Monday just 12 minutes into his comeback, the former world number one knew it was serious.

Ahead of the US Open, Koepka, 29, has a chance to do what only one golfer has done before him -- win a third straight US Open title.

It's been more than 100 years since Willie Anderson accomplished the feat, and Koepka says there's no better place to chase history than Pebble Beach, where five prior editions have produced enduring major championship memories.

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"It's just such a special place," Koepka said of the scenic course hugging the Pacific coast. "Just the history behind it. You look at the guys that have won here at Pebble, some of the greatest players that have ever played the game."

Jack Nicklaus won the first US Open staged at Pebble Beach in 1972. Ten years later it was Tom Watson and in 1992 Tom Kite.

Woods triumphed in 2000 by a crushing 15 strokes -- still a major championship record -- and Graeme McDowell ended Europe's 40-year US Open drought when he was the last man standing with a classic US Open total of even par 284 in 2010.

Koepka knows history is against his bid for a treble.

"I know the odds are stacked up probably even more against me now to go three in a row than to back it up," Koepka said, noting that "It's hard to win the same event three times in a row."

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Injury wildness

The last player to win the same major three years in a row was Peter Thomson at the British Open from 1954-56.

The last player to win a PGA Tour event three straight years was Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic in 2009, '10 and '11.

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Woods won the same tournament at least three straight years six times in five tournaments, so it's perhaps no wonder he returns to Pebble 19 years after his 2000 triumph in the title mix.

Having cemented his return from the injury wilderness with his 15th major title at the Masters, Woods says he's "trending in the right direction".

"There's nothing like playing a US Open set up at Pebble Beach," Woods said. "The golf course is not overly long. It's not big in that regard, but man, it's tricky.

"The greens are all slanted, very small targets," he said, noting that staying below the hole would be crucial on the greens with a tendency toward bumpiness.

The former world number one symphasised with Durant, who has suffered an Achilles injury, had only just returned to the Golden State Warriors line-up after a month-long layoff with a calf problem.

Woods, who spent nearly two years out of golf as he battled a long-running back problem, said Durant's immediate reaction on court spoke volumes.

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"It was sad," Woods said Tuesday at the US Open. "As athletes we've all been there to that spot when you just know it, that something just went, and can't move, can't do much of anything.

"And you can see it on his face, how solemn his face went. He knows it when things pop. You just know. And I've been there."

Woods, who suffered an Achilles injury in 2011, said he could empathise with Durant, who almost certainly now faces several months of rehab to regain fitness.

"I know what it feels like," Woods said. "It's an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That's the hard part. 

"And whether he has a procedure or not, or whatever it is, his offseason, what that entails, that's the hardest part about it is the offseason or the rehab."

The long journey back to fitness was the hardest part of an injury, Woods added.

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"That's what people don't see, is all those long hours that really do suck," he said. "And why do we do it? Because we're competitors. 

"As athletes our job is to make the human body do something it was never meant to do and to do it efficiently and better than anybody who is doing it at the same time.

"Well, sometimes things go awry. And we saw it last night with Kevin."

Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors reacts during their game against the Houston Rockets in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES