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CNN Today

Tiger Woods Heavy Favorite at U.S. Open

Aired June 14, 2000 - 1:36 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: There was a bittersweet moment today at Pebble Beach. One day before the beginning of the U.S. Open golf tournament there, fellow golfers and thousands of fans turned out to honor Payne Stewart. Stewart won last year's U.S. Open just four months before he died in an air crash.

With Stewart's widow looking on, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, and other golfers hit balls into the Pacific Ocean as a tribute to the legendary champion. This year's U.S. Open begins tomorrow and as usual these days, Tiger Woods is the favorite.

Here's CNN's Jim Huber.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM HUBER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They play mental games at Pebble Beach this week. It's always been thus at a U.S. Open, pretending it's just another golf tournament played on just another golf course. But while they might be able to accomplish that, they will never be able to pretend that Tiger Woods isn't in the field.

And that is both the aura and the edge that world's number one player brings not just here, but every week he plays.

TIGER WOODS: I've always felt that I -- I've always had a mental edge over a lot of my opponents. It doesn't mean that I have the physical abilities to back it up, but I always felt that I could play with them mentally. I had the desire to win, I wanted to beat you, but sometimes the physical abilities weren't there.

NICK PRICE: Every time he tees it up these days, he's the man to beat. But this week is going to require a lot of patience and if he has got his patience hat on with him this week, I think he's going to be tough to beat.

STEVE STRICKER: He's got the mental edge too, you know, he's got both of them, he's got the game and the mental side. And he's probably right, his mental approach is probably just as strong as his game or better and that's why he's playing so well and winning so much.

HUBER: Because he has won four of his 10 stops on the PGA Tour this year, he is overwhelmingly favored to capture his third major championship.

But while he's confident, he claims the noise of the trumpets doesn't bother him.

WOODS: I'll be honest with you, it really doesn't, because I don't really pay attention to it. I am out there trying to get ready. I generally don't read any of the articles or watch the TV when it comes on to the golf. I kind of just turn from away it.

SCOTT HOCH: His mind-set going out to the tournaments is probably better than anybody else's out here. Because -- well, ever since he got in here he went out expecting to win. I think a lot of us will say that but maybe not so many really believe that.

HUBER: Tiger really turns away from all of that, focusing instead on the job at hand. Somehow conquering one of the great golf courses in the world twice in six months. In fact, he's had a first, second and a third in his four stops here as professional.

And how would he like his conditions this week?

WOODS: The wind blows, great, you know, I'm going to go out there and strike the ball the best I can. The harder the conditions, the more it favors the player who's playing well. Obviously, as you know, the wind accentuates bad shots, and if can go out there and play well, at the level I have been playing at, with the wind, I think I can do all right.

HUBER: As if he needed more mental ammunition, Tiger won the AT&T National Pro-Am here at Pebble Peach just five months ago. Should he go on to win the Open this week, he would become the first player since Jack Nicklaus, in 1972, to win the both the Open and a tour event in the same course in the same year, company becoming more frequent every day it seems.

From the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, I'm Jim Huber.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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