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Under the watchful eye of his swing coach Hank Haney (right), Tiger Woods scouts out Royal Liverpool during Tuesday's practice round. (Photo: Getty Images)
Under the watchful eye of his swing coach Hank Haney (right), Tiger Woods scouts out Royal Liverpool during Tuesday's practice round. (Photo: Getty Images)

Notebook: Tiger doesn't expect much talk from Faldo

PGA.com's T.J Auclair reports on the Tiger Woods' reaction to what is surely the most interesting grouping of the first two rounds, Geoff Ogilvy's career-long layoff after his stunning U.S. Open triumph, Phil Mickelson's new major preparation strategy, and more from Royal Liverpool.

T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

HOYLAKE, England -- Much has been made about Thursday's 2:09 p.m. (local time) opening-round tee time featuring the threesome of Tiger Woods, Shingo Katayama and Nick Faldo. Actually, Katayama has nothing to do with the buzz.

It's all centered on Faldo -- a three-time British Open champion -- and Woods -- a two-time winner. Over the past two years in his duties as an analyst for ABC's golf coverage, Faldo has been critical of perceived flaws in Tiger's swing. No one likes criticism, especially Woods when it comes to his golf game.

Faldo -- who will play alongside Woods and Katayama for the first two rounds -- hasn't denied that things could be a little uncomfortable. More so, Faldo says, because he hasn't been able to prepare his game for the Open the way many others have. It's like being "thrown in to the deep-end spotlight," Faldo said.

During his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, Woods was asked what his current relationship was like with Faldo.

"We really don't talk much," he said.

Will they be talking on Thursday and Friday?

"I've only played with him two times since I've been a pro," Woods said. "Ad there wasn't a lot of talking there, either."

Tiger was pressed and asked whether the only communication he'd have with Faldo would be the pre- and post-round handshake.

"I really don't know," he said. "It's up to him. I'll be in my world trying to compete and trying to win the Championship, and I'm sure he'll probably do the same."

So, what would Tiger's reaction be if Faldo did want to talk?

"Surprised," he laughed.

MORE ON TIGER: This will be just the third start for Woods since the Masters in April and the passing of his father, Earl, in May.

In last month's U.S. Open at Winged Foot he missed the cut. At the Western Open a couple of weeks ago, he tied for second.

Woods has not denied that regardless of how he played, he felt his game was in a good place going into the U.S. Open. He didn't waver from that belief Tuesday, even with the benefit of retrospect.

"I was ready to compete, there was no doubt about that," he said. "I was ready to compete and I was ready to play and I just didn't play well. I just didn't get into the competitive flow fast enough. By the time I did get into the flow of the round I was always behind the 8-ball and you can't wait that long to get into the flow of a round.

"Taking that much time off and then coming back to the hardest U.S. Open venue we've ever played, it made it really difficult. Subsequently, I didn't execute. I didn't execute fast enough. As I said, I got into the flow too late. If I had gotten down to a flow a little earlier, things might have been different."

OGILVY RETURNS: Surprise U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy is playing here in the British Open, his first start since the win at Winged Foot last month. It is the first four-week layoff Ogilvy can recall in his professional career.

"I feel like I'm playing OK," the 29-year-old Australian said. "I've never done it before, take four weeks off. I was going to do it anyway, so it worked out good that I won. We'll see, if I'm not sharp enough this week, I might not do it again. But part of the reason I did it is just to see if I could get away with doing it because this is such a different tournament than anywhere else we play."

So, no similarities between Winged Foot and Royal Liverpool?

"It's about as different as you can get, I guess," he said. "It's a little bit wider off the tee, which is nice. It's a lot firmer, it's probably the firmest links course we've played in a long time.

"The rough is playable. If you hit in the bunkers, that's a chip out in most cases, but the rough you have to be able to play from. In some cases you're laying back with really, really short clubs just to make sure you don't run into the bunkers, to give yourself longer second shots. But, it's better than being in the bunkers, so it's a fun course."

NEW APPROACH FOR LEFTY: Typically, three-time major champion Phil Mickelson plays competitively the week before a major. However, that was not the case with this British Open.

Rather than play at Loch Lomond for the Scottish Open like he had usually done, Mickelson decided not to this time around, electing instead to focus and put all his efforts into fine-tuning for Royal Liverpool.

Mickelson said the reason for the week off was because he's not too fond of his career record at the British Open, which is highlighted by his third-place finish in 2004 -- his only top 10 in 13 tries. He finished in a tie for 60th last year before winning the next two majors and taking the crazy tie for second at Winged Foot.

"It wasn't until 2004 that I really understood the technique of hitting the ball properly into the wind," he admitted. "I was swinging hard, just like everybody -- or just like I normally do and I wasn't able to get that low, penetrating shot. And now with a couple of technique changes, just swinging easier, basically, the ball shoots low and through the wind and I'm not fighting it as much. I'm able to control it better. It just took me a lot longer to trust, again, that 50 to 100 yards of roll that we get and took me a while to learn how to trust the little knock-down, little chip shots that travel a couple hundred yards, because of the hard fairways."

Inevitably, Mickelson was asked Tuesday about the one hole in his golf career he'd love to forget -- No. 18 at Winged Foot, the final hole of the U.S. Open where he threw away the championship with his double-bogey 6, when par would have won the thing.

What did he learn from the experience?

"Well, if I get in that situation again hopefully I'd make a par," he said. "That would be kind of the goal. But as far as what to do, or how to do it, it would depend on the course and the situation, of course. But it was unfortunate for me that it went that way. But again, as I said at the Western, I feel very confident in the way I've prepared for tournaments and the way I've been playing and I won't want one bad hole to interfere with that, or have an effect on the upcoming tournaments, the upcoming majors, which is why I immediately altered my schedule to come over here and get a couple of extra preparation days because I know that my record hasn't been what I wanted it to be here at the British Open and I wanted to have those extra days to really work hard and see if I could bring my best golf out this particular week."

MONTY AND PADDY: Mickelson wasn't the only man to shoot himself in the foot at Winged Foot. The same happened to Jim Furyk, whose downfall wasn't nearly as famous, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and Ireland's Padraig Harrington.

Monty, who was a part of that tie for second after a double-bogey of his own on the last, bounced back quickly the following week with a tie for fourth at the Johnnie Walker Championship.

"That U.S. Open was a shame for myself and for Phil, I suppose, and for Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington," he said. "There were a few of us who let it slip at the end there. It was good for me to bounce back and get in the lead again and have a couple more decent tournaments after that and I look forward to this week because of that."

As for Harrington, his U.S. Open was lost in the third round when he advanced a utility club from the thick, nasty rough no more than 10 yards at the 18th and wound up with a triple-bogey. On Sunday, he was the only player to go 15 holes without carding a score worse than par. Unfortunately for the Irishman, there were 18 holes to be played. He bogeyed the final three to bow out of contention.

Since then, Harrington has also played well. He finished second at the French Open and tied for 20th in the European Open.

"I felt I've been playing well all year, but not quite getting the results," he said. "I've kind of turned that around since May and certainly been scoring a little bit better, holing a few more putts and that's resulted in good tournaments, a few more good finishes."

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