PEBBLE BEACH: Tiger Woods returns to the scene of perhaps his greatest triumph this week with his focus firmly on his hunt for more major success.He wants everyone else’s focus there, too.Two days before the start of the US Open championship, Woods slammed the door on questions about his private life.”That’s none of your business,” Woods brusquely told one reporter who had the temerity to ask about the state of his marriage, moving on to discuss the state of his health and his game with some optimism.Woods said the sore neck that forced him to pull out of the fourth round of The Players Championship had improved.”The neck is better – it’s not where I want it, but it is better, no doubt,” Woods said, adding that a key for him was that, even though it still got sore, he could recover to play or practise the next day.”I haven’t had any days where I couldn’t go the next day. That’s a big step in the right direction.”Woods said his game was moving in the right direction as well, after struggles since his return in April from a five-month absence to deal with the fallout from his marital infidelities.”The more I play, the more I get my feel back … Where I was in the beginning of June is where a lot of the guys are in January and February, the amount of rounds they played in,” he said.”So I’m just starting to get my feel back. And I know I have to be patient with it.”The 14-time major champion will play the first two rounds at Pebble Beach with England’s Lee Westwood and South African Ernie Els.Els had a ringside seat in 2000 when Woods blazed to a 15-stroke victory in the US Open here that still stands as a record winning margin for a major championship.The South African, who went into the record books as the distant runner-up, said that wire-to-wire win helped change the face of golf.”That was really a wake-up call for a lot of guys,” Els said. ”A lot of guys started changing their game a lot. And a lot of guys took their physical fitness to another level.”And 10 years later here we are, and we’ve got a lot of strong, physical, athletic guys out here on tour. I think it’s really brought the game a long way from that tournament.”Woods’s personal woes since December have gone some way towards dimming the aura that the 2000 US Open triumph – which was followed by victories in the British Open, PGA Championship and 2001 Masters for the ”Tiger Slam” – helped to create.Now Woods’s chances of breaking Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships seem less assured.Nicklaus has said he thinks 2010 could be a turning point in that chase, with the US Open here and the British Open to follow at St Andrews next month.Woods indicated he was not in a now-or-never frame of mind.”I think every year’s a big year, any time you have a chance to win four major championships,” the 34-year-old said. ”Certainly the venues do set up well and some years they don’t. But it doesn’t mean you can’t win on them.”AFP
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