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Tiger Woods hopes to replicate Ben Hogan's U.S. Open triumph at Merion

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Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

Hopes to copy Hogan's win at Merion in 1950

Coming 16 months after a head-on collision with a bus which nearly cost him his life, Ben Hogan's 1950 U.S. Open victory at Merion was moving enough to inspire a movie, "Follow the Sun," and an iconic photograph -- fans lining the 18th fairway, watching Hogan play a 1-iron approach.

Hogan was 37 when he hobbled to his win at Merion. The victory igniting a surge late in his career, as six of his nine major titles came after the accident.

Sixty-three years later, Tiger Woods comes to Merion at the same age and a similar stage of his career. Woods has gone five years without a major championship, and some wonder how many chances he will have to add to his total of 14. Could Merion do for Woods what it did for Hogan?

A win this week would be Woods' fourth Open title, tying him with record holders Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson.

"It would be nice. We've got a long way to go. We haven't started yet," Woods said. "Anyone who wins this week will certainly be part of history, just like it is with any U.S. Open."

Aside from shooting a 79 in the third round of the Memorial and finishing 65th, Woods enters in fine form. He has regained the top spot in the world golf rankings. The last time he entered the Open with four PGA Tour wins in a season was 10 years ago.

"I didn't play well. I didn't putt well. I didn't really do much that I was real pleased about," Woods said of his showing in Ohio. "It was just one of those weeks. It happens."

The best thing Woods took from the week was a Tuesday stop at Merion en route to Ohio. That day, two weeks ago, was wet, replicating the conditions Woods expects Thursday when he tees off in a traditional Open pairing with second-ranked Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Adam Scott.

"The ball wasn't flying very far, and I'm hitting the ball in the same spots now," Woods said. "I thought it might be totally different."

Another surprise for Woods on Tuesday came from his niece, Cheyenne Woods, who posed a question for him in the media center. Cheyenne Woods, a 22-year-old Ladies European Tour rookie, studied communications at Wake Forest and is writing for a golf website this week.

At the iconic course with wicker baskets atop the flagsticks, Cheyenne Woods will have a great story to write if her uncle can end his drought and perhaps spark a Hogan-like run that could catapult him past Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships.

Not one for sentimentality, Woods reminded writers that Hogan's famous photograph would have been much less memorable were it not for his 36-hole playoff victory the day after the picture was snapped.

"It's a great photo but it would have been an alright photo if he didn't win," Woods said. "He still had to go out and win it the next day."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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