STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Tiger Woods' 10-year plan to surpass Jack Nicklaus

The 119th U.S Open tees off at one of the most iconic courses anywhere in the world. Players say "it's more beautiful in person than I could've imagined."

Posted: Jun 13, 2019 9:10 AM
Updated: Jun 13, 2019 9:10 AM

Tiger Woods returns to the scene of arguably his greatest victory this week, intent on proving that his recent Masters win was the beginning of a major renaissance.

Woods won the US Open by a record 15 shots at Pebble Beach in 2000, described Tuesday by this year's defending champion Brooks Koepka as "probably the greatest golf performance we're going to see."

It sparked an unprecedented stretch of four straight major victories for Woods -- dubbed the "Tiger Slam" -- and he is back in his national championship on California's Monterey Peninsula as a resurgent 15-time major champion following that remarkable Augusta triumph, his first major title in 11 years.

But his missed cut at the ensuing PGA Championship at Bethpage left questions marks over which is the new normal -- Woods back as a major force after career-saving spinal fusion surgery? Or Woods the bit-part player with a penchant for Augusta?

The 43-year-old told reporters at Pebble Beach Tuesday he was in "rough shape" ahead of last month's PGA without expanding on his ailments, but said he was "trending in the right direction" ahead of the US Open at a venue which holds fond memories.

"It's crazy. It's been 19 years. I still remember most of the shots I hit that week," said Woods.

He added: "There's nothing like playing a US Open setup here in Pebble Beach.

"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. And if they ever firm up, then we have a totally different ballgame."

READ: 'Double digits, easy:' Brooks Koepka sets major target

Visit CNN.com/Sport for more news, features, videos

Time on his side

Woods' Masters triumph reignited his quest to beat Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles, and despite the Bethpage blip he believes time is still on his side.

"Hypothetically, let's say I give myself 10 years. That's 40 major championships. That's a lot of majors," said Woods, who finished a promising ninth in his latest outing at the Memorial Tournament earlier this month.

"The trick is now can I keep myself healthy enough and strong enough and fast enough to endure all that, considering what my body has gone through. And that's where I need help with all my trainers and physios and workout regimes, and hopefully I can make that happen."

One obstacle in Woods' way -- this week and for the foreseeable future -- is the daunting figure of world No. 1 Koepka, whose four titles in his last eight majors has drawn many comparisons with his illustrious countryman.

The 29-year-old Floridian has won the last two US Opens and is bidding to become the first player since Scotland's Willie Anderson in 1905 to win the tournament three times in a row. Only one player has won the same major three times in a row since the Masters was introduced in 1934 -- Australian Peter Thomson won the Open from 1954-1956.

Koepka admits history is not on his side, but acknowledged victory at Pebble Beach would be a unique feat in its own right.

"You look at the guys that have won here at Pebble, all Hall of Famers, some of the greatest players that have ever played the game," he said. "How can you not like the views? It's a cool place just to play golf and just to be here. It really is special."

READ: Brooks Koepka weathers storm for fourth major at PGA Championship

READ: Woods' Masters win has Nicklaus 'shaking in my boots'

Shoulder chip

The powerful Koepka has become the most dominant player in the game through a combination of physical prowess, pin-point iron play, a deft short game and impressive mental fortitude.

But he admits he is driven, in part, by a self-confessed chip on his shoulder.

"I mean, why wouldn't you? You've always got to find something to give you a little bit of extra motivation," he said Tuesday. "Sometimes it's blatantly obvious."

Koepka pointed to a US Open preview segment running on TV in the US which neglected to include him.

"There's a couple of things where it's just mind boggling how -- it's like, really? Like, how do you forget that?" he said.

He recalled a tale ahead of last year's US Open at Shinnecock Hills when he was working out in a gym and all eyes were on his close friend Dustin Johnson, even though he was the defending champion. He said it happened again in Canada last week.

"I was working out next to some guy, and he was talking about how Dustin was just in there and how cool it was," said Koepka Tuesday.

"And I was with my trainer, Barrett, and we were just kind of laughing."

The flip side is that Koepka still coming to terms with his growing fame.

"I view myself completely differently than people view me," he said. "I still think it's weird when I walk into a place and I can see eyes are on me just for dinner. And I'm like, 'What's everybody staring at?'

"I just view myself as a regular guy. I just happen to be really good at golf. I just want to be just like everybody else, just a normal person."

Despite Koepka's deadpan demeanour on the golf course, his compatriot Jordan Spieth, who has known him since amateur golf days, says he is "light and fun, and fun to be around."

"He's a guy's guy," added former world No.1 Spieth. "He's a good hang always. And he may be stoic on the golf course. I think that's his level of confidence that he has and his level of focus that he's been on."

Never ending stories

Alongside Woods and Koepka, the narratives at Pebble Beach this week are as tangled as the kelp in Carmel Bay.

Veteran Phil Mickelson just needs the US Open to complete the career grand slam of all four major titles, but has finished runner-up a record six times in the tournament. However, the 48-year-old left hander won at Pebble Beach earlier this season for his fifth victory over the celebrated California course.

World No. 2 Johnson also has previous at Pebble, and some deep scars from past US Opens. Following two PGA Tour wins at Pebble Beach, he led by three going into the final round of the US Open in 2010, but amassed a closing 82 to finish tied eighth behind Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

Johnson also three-putted from 12 feet on the final green to hand Jordan Spieth the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay. And after his sole major win at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, he led by four at halfway 12 months ago at Shinnecock before ending two behind Koepka.

At Bethpage last month, Johnson took the fight to long-time leader Koepka with a final-round charge before falling short at the end.

"It seems like he steps up and plays really well in big events. That's a sign of a really good player," said Johnson of his friend.

Third-ranked Rory McIlroy, who won the US Open in 2011, clinched the last of his four majors in 2014 but has hit form at just the right time with a final-round 61 to win in Canada Sunday.

Then there's Spieth, who is only the second player alongside Nicklaus to have won three legs of the career grand slam before the age of 24.

Spieth, however, has struggled since his 2017 Open Championship win but has shown glimpses of better days ahead with third at the US PGA and two other top 10s since.

"This one should provide a really cool challenge just given where it is in the setting and the history of this tournament here," he told reporters at Pebble Beach.

"We have four Super Bowls a year; this is one of them so it means a lot."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 333626

Reported Deaths: 3843
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin700691145
Ramsey29459521
Dakota23564198
Anoka23541236
Washington14864125
Stearns14564125
St. Louis9549121
Scott896460
Wright847548
Olmsted714637
Sherburne618746
Clay529960
Carver509715
Kandiyohi440828
Rice432338
Blue Earth431217
Crow Wing383339
Otter Tail338925
Chisago334516
Benton322753
Nobles316032
Winona297832
Douglas283040
Mower274823
Polk271527
Morrison246731
McLeod233721
Lyon232812
Beltrami230718
Goodhue222932
Becker221521
Steele21038
Itasca206324
Isanti203917
Carlton201417
Todd190314
Nicollet172126
Mille Lacs164632
Freeborn16227
Le Sueur157012
Brown156115
Cass153511
Pine14498
Meeker144812
Waseca143411
Roseau13035
Martin124721
Hubbard119729
Wabasha11301
Redwood104620
Chippewa9808
Renville95530
Cottonwood9454
Dodge9311
Watonwan8944
Wadena8637
Sibley8404
Rock8249
Houston8004
Aitkin79930
Fillmore7690
Pipestone76518
Pennington7058
Yellow Medicine69612
Kanabec68614
Swift63610
Murray6124
Faribault6093
Pope5721
Clearwater55410
Marshall5459
Stevens5403
Jackson5321
Lake4518
Koochiching4216
Wilkin4175
Lac qui Parle4124
Lincoln3811
Unassigned38159
Norman3718
Big Stone3392
Mahnomen3225
Grant2986
Kittson2518
Red Lake2303
Traverse1531
Lake of the Woods1071
Cook800

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 237371

Reported Deaths: 2571
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk34873347
Linn14787169
Scott1184692
Black Hawk11288147
Woodbury10763137
Johnson985939
Dubuque947999
Story701924
Pottawattamie682474
Dallas661260
Sioux383829
Webster378339
Cerro Gordo373252
Marshall360950
Clinton345645
Buena Vista316614
Muscatine305172
Des Moines300623
Warren294115
Plymouth287044
Wapello265072
Jones237118
Jasper231546
Lee228719
Marion211922
Carroll204325
Bremer202713
Henry19367
Crawford183116
Benton175423
Tama157442
Jackson151117
Washington150216
Delaware147621
Dickinson145812
Boone144912
Mahaska133928
Wright13107
Clay12505
Buchanan123410
Hardin122812
Hamilton119514
Page11925
Kossuth11768
Clayton115510
Cedar114614
Harrison113432
Floyd111921
Mills11129
Calhoun10987
Fayette109812
Lyon10769
Butler10748
Winneshiek105513
Poweshiek103714
Iowa101414
Cherokee9674
Winnebago96325
Chickasaw9195
Hancock9138
Sac9068
Louisa90122
Grundy89514
Allamakee88413
Cass84725
Union8437
Mitchell8429
Appanoose81613
Humboldt8125
Shelby80511
Emmet79026
Guthrie78315
Franklin76421
Jefferson7635
Madison7265
Unassigned7090
Palo Alto6744
Keokuk6567
Pocahontas6024
Howard5859
Ida54915
Osceola5461
Greene5422
Montgomery51411
Clarke5064
Davis4839
Taylor4833
Monona4567
Adair4539
Monroe45113
Worth3881
Fremont3823
Van Buren3815
Decatur3410
Lucas3416
Audubon3112
Wayne3087
Ringgold2432
Adams1812
Rochester
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 33°
Mason City
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 28°
Albert Lea
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 36°
Austin
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 39°
Charles City
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 32°
A Quiet Weekend Ahead
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Gun Deer season starts in Iowa

Image

Albert Lea church taking in displaced residents

Image

Rochester Area Foundation Virtual Event

Image

Path for economic recovery

Image

Sean's Weather 12/4

Image

13 homes evacuated due to Albert Lea blaze

Image

Property Taxes to Decrease for Most Olmsted County Homeowners

Image

Property Tax Decrease in Olmsted County

Image

MSHSL announces return to participation plan for winter, spring sports

Image

Improvements to Highway 14 corridor

Community Events