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Will a different Torrey Pines mean a different result for Woods at Open?

1/28/2008 - Golf

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- There is no question, the guy loves this place. It "fits his eye," as Tiger Woods often says about golf courses where he performs well. It is not far from his hometown of Cypress, Calif., among the places he developed his game as a junior.

And Torrey Pines -- where Woods won the Buick Invitational on Sunday for the fourth straight year and sixth time overall -- just happens to be the site of this summer's U.S. Open.

Should we just count on him taking home that hardware in June as well?

Betting against him would not be wise, especially after he was 12-under-par for the three rounds played on the South Course, where the Open will be staged.

"What he is going to do is screw up the U.S. Open for everybody," said Fred Couples, who tied for eighth, 14 shots back. "If it had been 10 or 11 [under for 72 holes], then they'd probably think they got it right. But [19] under … they might have to regroup a little bit."

Couples was referring to the United States Golf Association, which runs the U.S. Open and has a reputation for setting up its golf courses to the extreme. Remember, the last two Opens at Oakmont and Winged Foot were won with a winning score of 5-over par.

But Mike Davis, the USGA's director of rules and competitions, said that won't be necessary.

"The firmness of the golf course will be a lot different, simply because of the weather," Davis said. "It almost never rains at that time of year. We can control the golf course."

Yes, the greens will be much firmer and faster, and thus less forgiving. The rough will be a bit more dense, perhaps not as easy to negotiate. Par will be sliced from 72 to 71, more of a mental blow because there is one less par-5, one less birdie opportunity.

"This isn't the same golf course that it's going to be," said Rees Jones, the golf course architect who did modifications at Torrey Pines in anticipation of the Open being played here. "I think if you saw Tiger putt the greens last year [at Oakmont], he putted them a little more defensively than this week."

Even Woods was quick to point out that the course will be different than the one where he just dominated.

"Every ball backs up during this time of year," he said. "Then you get to the Open and every ball springs forward. … It's totally different clubs off tees, two totally different sites."

Then again, six victories at Torrey as a pro, plus all the time Woods spent here as a junior golfer, has to help.

"This course has been really kind to me," Woods said. "Ever since junior golf all the way through the professional ranks. I've somehow seemed to have played well here. It fits my eye. I feel very comfortable here. I can read the greens even though they're a little bit bouncy. I can still read them, and I read them well.

"It's just one of those things where some people have an affinity for certain golf courses, like my buddy [Mark] O'Meara who won five times up at Pebble, I guess Sam [Snead] at Greensboro [eight victories] and [Jack] Nicklaus at Augusta [six]. Guys that have won a number of times at certain venues, and somehow this golf course seems to have been pretty good for me."

For what it's worth, the last time a PGA Tour event and an Open were played at the same venue in the same year, Woods won at Pebble Beach in 2000 and then returned for a 15-shot victory in June.

Just like Torrey, the conditions were completely different.

Many figure the outcome will not be.

Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.