Strong Woods 'good' for golf
San Francisco - Count Steve Stricker among the many who believe Tiger Woods's triumph at the Memorial two weeks ago means the US star is a favourite to claim a 15th major title at this week's US Open.
"I'm a bandwagon-jumper," Stricker admitted, even though it has been four years since Woods claimed his 14th major at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.
Woods has won twice on the US PGA Tour this year, ending a drought that stretched back to 2009 and the days before a sex scandal led to divorce and swing changes and injury woes slowed him on the course.
Woods's victory at Bay Hill in March immediately raised expectations for the Masters, but Woods tied for 40th in a disappointing outing at Augusta National.
Stricker said that didn't matter. The sight of Woods winning one tournament still raised the expectation that more will quickly follow.
"I think that just shows you the ability he has and what people see in the type of player that he is and the type of shots he's been able to hit over the years - and the uncanny ability to just get it done and win golf tournaments," Stricker said.
"When he does win one, I think that's why we're all quick to hop on his bandwagon and say he's back."
Whether or not Woods takes another step this week in his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championships, just having him in the mix is good for golf," Stricker said.
"It's good for us, and it's good for whatever tournament he's playing in," Stricker said. "It brings a lot of attention to our game."
US Golf Association officials will take advantage of that with a marquee pairing of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson in the first and second rounds at The Olympic Club.
"As a golf fan I love it," Stricker said of the superstar grouping. "Great for TV, great for exposure."
Mickelson said he liked the grouping, because he believes Woods always brings out the best in him.
And Mickelson likes the idea of being able to keep an eye on the player he always reckons will be one of his toughest rivals for a title.
Tom O'Toole, chairman of the USGA's championship committee, said there were some logistical concerns in pairing Woods, Mickelson and Watson together, given the size of the gallery they'll attract.
"There was a lot of thought given to this," he said. "But we're trying to create excitement, trying to create fan buzz ... we think it enhances our championship and we're excited about it."