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U.S. Open 2019: Will Tiger Woods bounce back after a disappointing PGA Championship?

Sporting News — (Thomas Lott)

When Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green at Bethpage Black in May he had a lot to think about.

He had just missed his first cut of the year by one stroke at the season's second major and he was feeling old. The pain in his back which derailed his storied career had once again reared its ugly head on that disappointing Saturday.

“I just wasn’t moving the way I needed to,” Woods told reporters after his round. “That’s the way it goes. There’s going to be days and weeks where it just doesn’t work.”

It was a blip on the radar in what has been a storybook comeback over the last two seasons. After failing to win a major for more than 10 years, Woods earned a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship to close out 2018 and won a tournament for the first time in nearly five years to close out his season at the Tour Championship.

Woods has truly resurrected his career this season with two top-10 finishes in golf's biggest events including his first major since 2008 at the Masters.

But his performance at Bethpage Black was indeed a disappointing one which brought up the question as to whether he could bounce back from such a performance after he truly did not look good.

Woods all but assuaged those fears two weeks later at the Memorial Tournament where he finished 9 under (T-9) at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.

That course features many of the same challenges as Bethpage Black with deep rough and difficult lies across the board. It's a course with familiar difficulty to this week's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. This course will have brutal rough which forces players to stay in the fairway.

That's where Woods struggled at the PGA Championship. After hitting more than 50 percent of fairways in every single one of his stroke play events of the season, Woods landed just 46.4 percent at Bethpage Black. He was constantly scrambling to get onto the green and was forced to get up and down far more than he wanted to. It's something he cannot do at Pebble Beach this week.

But if the Memorial Tournament is any indication, he has ironed some things out as he hit 75 percent of the fairways on the week and thus his greens in regulation went up. It's a big reason why he shot 9 under for the week. And it's also a good indicator of how he can play going forward.

“I wanted to have something positive going into the (U.S.) Open and kind of sneak up there with a nice little top 10 possibly," Woods said after his final round. "I was never going to win the tournament with where I was at. I wanted to get to double digits today and I did. I just didn’t stay there.”

Now the only question is, how will Woods feel physically when he plays this week at Pebble Beach? This is a course he has dominated in the past winning the event by 15 strokes in 2000 but if he doesn't keep the ball in the fairway it's going to be hard for him to compete.

The Memorial Tournament showed he can stay in the short grass, so recent performance would suggest he is more than capable of keeping himself out of trouble.

At the same time, how he plays now is contingent upon his health. He looked healthy at the Memorial and played well as a result.

Woods knows to play well he has to be well rested and after taking last week off from the RBC Canadian Open he should be just that.

“I know that I feel better when I’m fresh," Woods said. "The body doesn’t respond like it used to, doesn’t bounce back quite as well, so I’ve got to be aware of that.”

Woods, who looks healthy, will tee off at 5:09 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth. We'll see though which version of the 15-time major champion shows up — the one in Ohio which attacked the course and put himself in contention, or the one from New York who struggled to keep the ball in play.