Tiger Woods hopes staying on his 'dinghy' helps chances at U.S. Open

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Staying on his yacht -- or "dinghy," as he kiddingly called it -- at a nearby harbor for this week's U.S. Open apparently has more advantages for Tiger Woods than the typical creature comforts that come with a 155-foot boat.

Woods noted the lengthy traffic delays in getting to Shinnecock Hills, something he won't have to be concerned about when the U.S. Open begins on Thursday.

"Yeah, staying on the dinghy helps,'' Woods said, jokingly. "There are a few guys this week who have said it's taken them from the hotel 2½ to 3 hours and there's a good chance that someone might miss their (tee time). You get a little traffic, maybe a little fender bender, and it's not inconceivable someone could miss their time.''

Woods has no such off-the-course worries as he embarks on his 20th U.S. Open and his first since missing the cut at the Chambers Bay in 2015.

But when it comes to winning a tournament for first time in five years or a major championship for the first time in 10 years, Woods has found difficulty in putting all aspects of his game together.

Now 10 tournaments into his comeback from a fourth back surgery, Wood has at times struggled with his driving, his iron play and putting, the latter of which hurt him two weeks ago at the Memorial, where he tied for 23rd after one of his best ball-striking weeks in years.

"Golf is always frustrating,'' Woods said. "There's always something that isn't quite right, and that's where we, as players, have to make adjustments. You've seen the tournaments I've played this year. There's always something. Hopefully this is one of those weeks where I put it all together and even it out. We'll see what happens.''

To that end, Woods said he put in significant work on his short game after he had 118 putts over four rounds at Muirfield Village, where he three-putted five greens and missed seven putts of 5 feet or less. For the week, Woods ranked 72nd in putting out of the 73 players who played four rounds.

He also had a second putter in his bag, one he usually uses to practice with at home but that he brought with for the same purpose.

"What I've done over basically my entire career is putt with those putters at home a lot,'' he said. "And then I like to feel that in my fingers when I grab my other putter, the one you've seen me putt with for most of those years, and have that same swing.

"What I did at Memorial, I just didn't feel comfortable over it. I couldn't see my lines. And those greens were quick, and I just didn't feel comfortable and didn't hit many good putts. I hit a lot of bad ones.

"This is a different week, different setup, different grass. This is what I basically grew up on out there on the West Coast. Poa (annua) gets bumpy, and it requires a lot of patience. A lot of times you can hit great putts on poa, and it doesn't go in. The key is to hit putts solid and see what happens.''

Woods has confined his practice to nine-hole rounds so far: with Jordan Spieth on Sunday, Steve Stricker on Monday and then Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday.

He is grouped with Johnson and Justin Thomas for the first two rounds, with Thursday's tee time at 1:47 p.m. off No. 1.

And he should have no problem with his commute.

"It's been nice to kind of get away from the tournament and scene and go to my dinghy there, and just really enjoy it,'' he said.