With four little words, Tiger Woods gave golf fans and PGA Tour officials reason to smile:
“The wrist is good.”
Woods, who at 19 years old has become one of his sport’s most popular figures, said Tuesday the two-week layoff from an injury that forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open cleared his mind and helped his game.
“I feel like I’m playing better now,” said the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, who tees off Thursday in the Western Open. “I haven’t had time to rest up and get my mind clear because of school and all the studying I had to do. Then I had to go straight to the Open, so I haven’t had a break. That two-week break really felt good.”
Woods, who just completed his freshman year at Stanford, sprained a ligament in his left wrist while trying to hit out of the deep rough during the second round of the U.S. Open.
He skipped the following week’s Northeast Amateur and just resumed practicing.
Woods expects no problems this week at the $2 million Western Open at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club.
He’ll be trying to become only the third amateur in the last four decades to win a PGA Tour event, joining Scott Verplank and Phil Mickelson. Verplank won the Western at Butler National in 1985.
Woods’ father, Earl, suggested Monday his son might not remain an amateur because of the long and detailed list of NCAA rules. But Tiger Woods, who served a one-day suspension for having diaries published in two golf magazines, said he expected to play in the 1997 U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill.
“I won’t turn pro until 1998, after college,” he said. “The only thing that’s really annoying about the NCAA is trying to get used to the rules and regulations. Once you understand them, then it’s not bad. It’s not going to force me out.”
The only governing body he had dealt with was the U.S. Golf Association.
“Under the NCAA now, it’s a whole new ball game. The rule book is about ‘yay’ thick,” Woods said, holding his fingers several inches apart. “I’ll give you an example: Say I’m out here playing in a college event and you’re there at the turn and you offered me a drink or something, that would be illegal. You would have to get the entire field a drink. Little things like that are annoying and you’ve got to watch it.”
Woods is the only amateur playing in the Western. The other 155 golfers will be competing for the $360,000 top prize.
The tournament, sponsored by Motorola, raised its purse from $1.2 million to $2 million and became one of the tour’s five richest events. As a result, it has drawn 82 of this season’s top 100 money-winners.
Two-time defending champion Nick Price hopes to play despite a hip injury he sustained at the U.S Open and aggravated Friday at Memphis, Tenn., in the St. Jude Classic.
“It seems to be fine,” Price said Tuesday after playing in a celebrity skins game. “But it’s the walking that hurts most. I’m going to have to wait and see how the ProAm goes (today). This is one of my favorite events. Nothing would be worse for me if I couldn’t play this week.”
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