US Open returns to Tiger territory

FARMINGDALE, New York- Tiger Woods is eagerly anticipating his return to Bethpage Black for next month's US Open, a venue where he will be defending the US Open title in familiar and successful surroundings.

FARMINGDALE, New York- Tiger Woods is eagerly anticipating his return to Bethpage Black for next month's US Open, a venue where he will be defending the US Open title in familiar and successful surroundings.

Woods won the tournament when it was first staged at the sprawling public course in 2002 and returns to Long Island as the champion after a thrilling 19-hole playoff triumph over Rocco Mediate last year at another public course, Torrey Pines.

"It was a great atmosphere when we played in 2002," Woods said in a conference call to reporters at the US Golf Association's media day at Bethpage on Monday. "The fans were truly into it. I think everyone was having a great time. If you made a putt, people went crazy.

"It was a ton of fun to play in front of that, because it's always fun to play in front of people who appreciate shots and are excited that the guys are playing well."

Teeing off on June 18, this year's event will be even more of a people's championship after the US Golf Association (USGA) made more tickets available to the public due to a slump in corporate hospitality sales.

"Since it will be a number of years until the US Open returns to the New York area, we hope that New York sports fans take advantage of the opportunity to be part of the US Open experience," USGA director David Fay said in a statement.

Woods said competing on public courses for one of golf's four majors was special.

"I grew up on public golf courses, so for me, they were a vehicle for me to be able to play golf," said the world number one, who will be gunning for his 15th major win and first since undergoing knee surgery following his Torrey Pines triumph.

"I played a bunch of junior golf tournaments with the California Junior Golf Association, a bunch of tournaments on public golf courses." - Reuters

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