Woods skipping Colonial, will cram for U.S. Open

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Tiger Woods is skipping the
Colonial and will likely go to the U.S. Open having played only
two tournaments since The Masters.

Woods has always played at least three times between The Masters
and the U.S. Open. But he said Monday he's trying to stick to a
lighter schedule after having knee surgery in December.

"I'll probably play fewer events than I did last year, just to
make sure everything is OK," he said. "I'm taking more time off
and just making sure everything is all right for the future. I
don't want to create any further damage."

Woods missed five tournaments early in the season after surgery
to remove fluid and benign cysts that had caused ligaments in his
knee to swell. He hasn't played since finishing in a tie for 15th
at The Masters, a four-week break.

He'll be playing in this weekend's Deutsche Bank-SAP Open, where he is a
three-time winner and the defending champion, and then return for
the Memorial.

And no, he's not going to play the Colonial, where Annika Sorenstam will become the first woman in 58 years to compete on the
PGA Tour.

"No Colonial," he said during a teleconference at the U.S.
Open media day. "I'm out."

While long layoffs aren't typical for Woods, he said his reduced
schedule won't hurt his chances for a third U.S. Open title. After
all, it's not as if he's been off on some exotic extended vacation.

He has spent his downtime working on his swing -- its plane and
extension of his downswing, in particular. And he spent time with
Butch Harmon last week.

He also plans to fit in a trip to Chicago for a sneak peek at
Olympia Fields Country Club, where the U.S. Open will be held June

"If my practice sessions go well," he said, "then there's
nothing to worry about."

And if there's one tournament where extra practice helps, it's
the U.S. Open. Open courses are traditionally longer and narrower
than those for other majors, and Olympia Fields is no different.

Almost 400 yards have been added, so the course will play at
7,190 yards. Fairways will average 28 yards across. There are only
two par-5s, both on the front nine.

"I think the U.S. Open setup is wonderful, because it puts a
premium on ball striking," Woods said. "On top of that, it really
puts you in a position where you have to think your way around a
golf course. It's just not about tee up the driver and bombs away,
hit it as hard as you can and go find it. You've got to really
strategize and position your golf club moreso than most tournaments
you play in.

"When I first played a U.S. Open, I knew how to play a U.S.
Open. I knew how to strategize and put myself from point A to point
B. But my game didn't allow me to do that," he added. "I didn't
drive it very straight and, on top of that, my distance control
wasn't very good."

But that's come with experience. Just 27, Woods has won two of
the last three U.S. Opens, including last year's tournament at
Bethpage Black in New York.

He ran away with the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, winning by
15 strokes.

And though he's never played Olympia Fields, he figures to have
something of a homefield advantage.

Woods has a successful track record in Chicago, winning the 1999
PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club and the 1997 and '99
Western Opens. He's a fan favorite, too. Who can forget the sight
of thousands of fans breaking through the ropes to follow him up
the 18th fairway as he won the Western Open in 1997?

"I'm just hoping to enjoy playing in front of the Chicago fans.
They've been awesome," Woods said with a grin. "It's been a lot
of fun for me, and hopefully I can use that good karma at the U.S.