Tiger Woods took a pragmatic approach on Tuesday when discussing the challenges in chasing history at this week's U.S. Open.

"It gets harder to win as we all age," Woods said after a practice round at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

There is a lot of history on the line for the 44-year-old Woods this week.

He's seeking his 16th major championship in his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18. He is also tied with Sam Snead for the most career PGA Tour victories with 82.

Woods is also trying to tie Nicklaus, Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan as the only players with four U.S. Open titles.

However, what was once considered an inevitable march past most every major record in golf a decade ago has morphed into a question of what Woods' body has left as he inches his way toward a few of his most important goals.

"When you're in your prime and in your peak years, you have to take advantage of those opportunities so that when you get to all-time marks, you have the opportunity," he said.

Woods now balances practice and working out with the reality that his body can no longer hold up to the rigors of his legendary work ethic. He has competed only four times since the PGA Tour resumed in mid-June, with his best finish a tie for 27th at last month's PGA Championship.

"Health comes first," Woods said Tuesday. "Whether or not I feel physically good enough where I can put in a practice, that's my unfortunate reality."

Only six of Woods' last 16 competitive rounds have been under par, and he failed to reach the Tour Championship for the second consecutive year. Woods enters the week ranked 21st in the world, but without a top-10 since the Farmers Insurance Open in January.

He referenced tennis legends Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams when discussing chasing historical feats on the golf course.

"They've been so consistent and so dominant for such a long period of time, that's how you get to you can have those all-time marks," he said. "Consistency over a long period of time is a hallmark of those records."

Woods will be paired with Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa when he tees off at 8:07 a.m. ET on Thursday in pursuit of his fourth U.S. Open. His most recent came 12 years ago in a dramatic playoff win over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

His game has not looked anywhere near major-ready in the 16 competitive rounds he has played since February. Having experimented with various putters this summer, Woods has returned to the Scotty Cameron that was in his bag for most of his 15 previous major triumphs.

"This year, I haven't really putted as well as I've wanted to," Woods acknowledged. "And the times that I did, I've made a few swing mistakes. I've compounded mistakes here and there. Consequently, I haven't put myself in position to win events."

He's also one of only 15 players in the field who also competed in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, although the course has changed significantly since then - and all 15 players have aged 14 years since then.

Woods put Winged Foot in a class with Oakmont in Pennsylvania and Carnoustie in Scotland as among the toughest in the world.

"The greens have all been redone, and most of the holes are a lot longer than when we played in '06," Woods said. "But technology has changed, and the golf ball is going further. Guys are hitting it further, so we're putting from about the same spots.

"But it seems like every tee you have to walk back a bit further."

Woods has always enjoyed playing in big events in the New York area. He has also spoken often about missing the buzz of fans in the gallery during the coronavirus pandemic.

There will be no fans in the gallery to help energize Woods this week as they did when he rallied to win last year's Masters.

"I miss their energy and just the positiveness that the fans bring. The electricity," he said. "But that's something that I've been playing in front of for over two decades. I've been lucky enough to be a part of that.

"What we're dealing with right now is not what we all want, but it's our reality. The energy is just not quite the same without the fans."

--Field Level Media

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