Woods preps for U.S. Open, plays round at Torrey Pines

Tiger Woods played his first round of golf Wednesday since knee surgery two days after the Masters, getting a thumbs-up from his swing coach after 17-plus holes at Torrey Pines riding in a cart.

Eight days before the start of the U.S. Open, Woods played in solitude on the South Course with swing coach Hank Haney, stopping only when he saw a small group of people with cameras waiting around the 18th green.

"It went well," Haney said in a telephone interview. "He hit the ball really well. It was definitely a positive day."

The San Diego Union-Tribune, which first reported on its Web site that Woods had played, said the round lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes amid tight security. No spectators or media were allowed on the course, which has been closed since May 21.

It was the first time Woods has played at Torrey Pines since he won the Buick Invitational in January by eight shots before thousands of fans. Haney said it was eerie to play a city-owned golf course with no one around.

"We were the only ones out there," Haney said. "The course is in phenomenal condition."

Woods, who opened his 2008 season by winning his first four tournaments, had surgery to clean out cartilage in his left knee on April 15, two days after his runner-up finish at the Masters ended talk about a Grand Slam.

It was his second surgery on the left knee in five years.

Woods had said Monday in a conference call for the PGA Championship that while he had been able to practice, he had not played a full round of golf since the Masters.

"Everything held up good," Haney said. "Obviously, he didn't walk. But he hit the ball really good."

Haney said Woods didn't keep score, and he often tossed golf balls in the rough to see what kind of options he would have. There were a few, none of them terribly appealing.

"In the deep stuff, it's a sand wedge, maybe a 9-iron at the most," Haney said. "We were messing around on No. 10 and he tried to hit a 5-wood. Even when the grass is deep, if you open the face and hit a cut, you might scoot it 150 yards. It's quite a sight to see Tiger 165 yards from the pin with a 5-wood."

The U.S. Open now uses graduated depths of rough from the fairway, and Haney said Woods could reach the green from the lower cuts. But anything in the rough above the hole was virtually impossible to get close.

"The greens were so fast," he said. "In the 30 years of being on tour and teaching players, that was the fastest I've ever seen greens this far out. They were putting beautifully."

Woods will play the U.S. Open having not competed in two months. He also went nine weeks without playing in 2006 while dealing with the death of his father, returning to the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and missing the cut for the only time in a major.