Excitement injected into U.S. Open

SAN DIEGO - The 'June Gloom' so typical of summer in San Diego gave way to sunshine on the eve of the U.S. Open, filling the blue sky with fighter jets from Miramar that until Wednesday could only be heard in the fog.

But that isn't the biggest buzz at Torrey Pines.

Rarely has there been so much enthusiasm for a U.S. Open, the major that tends to border on boring, where birdies are rare, bogeys are inevitable and par has been good enough to win the last three years.

'I think you're going to see some excitement that we haven't seen in several years,' Senior Open champion Brad Bryant said.

Such excitement comes in so many packages.

Tiger Woods, racing toward history with every major he plays, has not walked 18 holes of golf since he had surgery on his left knee two days after the Masters. There is so much speculation over his knee that three dozen cameras followed him to and from the range Wednesday to capture him hit everything from wedges to a 5-wood out of the thick rough.

'I'm good to go,' Woods said. 'I plan on playing competitive. Come game time on Thursday, I'll be ready.'

But he will not have the spotlight to himself.

For the first time, the USGA purposely rigged the draw to put the top three players in the same group - Woods and Phil Mickelson, with Adam Scott along for the ride while nursing a broken pinkie on his right hand.

Woods and Mickelson are the two most popular players in golf, especially in these parts. Mickelson grew up in San Diego and played high school matches at Torrey. Woods won a Junior World Championship at 15 and has owned Torrey Pines as a pro, winning the Buick Invitational six times. His most recent victory was five months ago by a record eight shots.

The U.S. Open has sold 42,500 tickets. One might guess 42,000 will be trying to watch Tiger and Phil.

'Not a chance in the world would I ever go out there and fight that gallery, not even for two holes,' Jim Furyk said.

The last time Woods and Mickelson played together at Torrey Pines was in the final round of the 2003 Buick Invitational, when Woods was playing for the first time since surgery on his left knee - just like now - and he wound up winning by four shots.