With Garcia on the defensive, Woods came out as if he were about to apply for Philadelphia’s chamber of commerce.
Area golf fans who hadn’t seen important golf in Philly for decades flocked to Woods in 2010 and 2011 at Aronimink and made him feel as loved as Julius Erving or Bob Clarke.
With fans shrieking at the sight of Woods during practice, he returned the love at Merion.
“This is one of the great sporting towns in the country,” he said. “They’re passionate about all sports. We had our event at Aronimink and it was unbelievable. It was electric. I think this week will be the same thing.”
Score one for Tiger.
Woods has a more pressing task on his plate than making peace with Garcia. He’s hoping to end his five-year drought without winning a major.
Woods won four majors on courses he had never played — Medinah for the 1999 PGA Championship, Valhalla for the PGA Championship the following year, Bethpage Black in the 2002 U.S. Open and Royal Liverpool for the 2006 British Open.
Merion is new not only to him, but just about everyone.
It last hosted a U.S. Open in 1981, when David Graham putted for birdie on every hole and closed with a 67. Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker played Merion, but they were all college kids at the 1989 U.S. Amateur. A few others competed in the 2005 U.S. Amateur or the 2009 Walker Cup.
But never at a U.S. Open.
For Garcia, the U.S. Open at Merion might live up to its reputation as the toughest test in golf — outside the ropes. He returns to America, on one of the biggest stages in golf, for the first time since a public feud with Woods took an ugly turn at a celebration dinner in England. Garcia jokingly was asked if he would invite Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open. “We will serve fried chicken,” Garcia replied with a grin.