Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tiger: Never played Merion, Pine Valley

As much as he gets around, Tiger Woods has never played the two greatest courses in the Philadelphia area, Merion or Pine Valley.

I had heard this from the clubs themselves, but I never knew Tiger to talk about it or confirm it -- until now.

During a practice round visit to the site of this year's U.S. Open, Oakmost Country Club outside Pittsburgh, the few gathered media got Tiger to talk about where he has and hasn't played. That led to this exchange, as quoted by Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press:

“Ever been to Merion?” he was asked.

“Never,” Woods replied, and he could see where this conversation was headed. “I’ve never even been to Pine Valley or Seminole.”

Pine Valley is annually ranked the best course in the country by some publication, and it was strange Woods has never been in the southern New Jersey area long enough to play it. Jack Nicklaus went there during his honeymoon.

Seminole should be no problem once Woods builds his palace in south Florida. He played Sunday afternoon with Bob Ford, the longtime head pro at Oakmont who spends his winter as the head pro at Seminole. Ford can probably set something up for him.

“I just don’t ever go anywhere out of the way to play golf,” Woods said. “I’m either at a tournament, or getting ready to play in a tournament and working on my game at home. I love to play, but I’d rather stay home with my buds at Isleworth or Newport Beach.”

Merion will host the U.S. Open in 2013, so as long as Woods can qualify that year, he’ll eventually get to see the plaque on the 18th fairway — as he’s walking past it to his ball — where Ben Hogan struck his mighty 1-iron in the final round of the 1950 U.S. Open.

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