Tiger: Continued improvement the key

6/17/2009 - Golf Tiger Woods

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- The shot of confidence he received from his impressive victory at the Memorial Tournament nine days ago is something Tiger Woods hopes to build on as he attempts to win his 15th major championship at this week's U.S. Open.

Woods played another nine-hole practice round Tuesday morning at Bethpage State Park's Black course, where the 109th U.S. Open begins on Thursday.

"You need to get better,'' Woods said. "The whole idea of practicing this week was to make sure I became more comfortable on what we're working on and more efficient at doing it.

"I've had some good practice sessions at home, and my practice rounds here this week have been really good. [I'm] really looking forward to getting out there and competing and playing.''

Woods won the Memorial with a final-round 65 at Muirfield Village in Ohio, sinking birdies on the final two holes and hitting all 14 fairways. Woods had not done that at any tournament since 2003. He also hit 49 of 56 fairways for the tournament, a feat he last accomplished at the 1998 Masters.

The victory, Woods' second of the year, came after considerable consternation over his driving accuracy. Woods simply said he needed more time after returning from knee surgery.

"To get better at this game you have to put in the time,'' he said. "Can't think about it and magically it gets better each and every day. You have to do the work. I'm able to start doing that now.''

A change in equipment also helped. Woods said he went back to an old set of Nike irons, while changing the loft on his driver to 10.5 degrees.

"We all know loft is your friend,'' he said. "It's working out. I'm driving the ball more efficiently and I still have the same power.''

Woods, who has won three U.S. Open titles, won his second here in 2002 and his third last year at Torrey Pines, where he played on a broken leg and a torn ACL. Eight days after his playoff victory over Rocco Mediate, Woods had reconstructive knee surgery and did not hit a ball for six months.

Since his return in February at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he lost in the second round, Woods has played in six stroke-play events, with two victories and four other top-10 finishes.

Woods will be paired during the first two rounds with British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington and Masters champion Angel Cabrera, with tee times at 8:06 a.m. ET on Thursday and 1:36 p.m. on Friday.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.