-- DUBLIN, Ohio -- Between them, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have competed in 42 editions of the U.S. Open. That's a combined 42 weeks of cart path-wide fairways, ankle-burying rough and black ice-slick greens. That's 42 grueling weeks of grinding through 72 holes in golf's version of a devious brainteaser.
So yeah, the two players who have totaled 38 made cuts, 18 top-10s and three wins -- none of those three, famously, for Mickelson -- know a thing or two about playing the year's second major championship. And with each player having recently made a scouting mission to Chambers Bay, thoughts of the upcoming U.S. Open were still cycling through their minds as they prepped for this week's Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio.
"Do I like it? Depends how it's set up," assessed Woods, who practiced on the Chambers Bay course in University Place, Washington, on Monday and Tuesday this week. "It can be played so many different ways. If you tip it out, it's over 7,900 [yards]. ... It could be a golf course in which, hey, this golf course is pretty easy. You hit long driver down there and drive it on three of the par 4s. You can hit a lot of wedges into the holes and you tear it apart. Or he's going to set it up the other way."
"He," of course, is USGA executive director Mike Davis, who has been charged with the task of setting up U.S. Open venues for the past decade.
Davis recently said Chambers Bay will feature holes that can be played as both par-4s and par-5s; he revealed there will be tee boxes with sidehill lies; and he suggested that competitors will need several practice rounds in order to fully prepare themselves for the week.
"When Mike says something like that, you've got to pay attention to it, because he's an extremely bright man," Woods said. "We got out there and it was like, oh, my God, there's so many different options here. You have to know. I don't take a long time in practice rounds, but we played in three and a half hours, just the front nine, had lunch, kind of sat down there and talked about it and played another three and a half on the back. So we spent a while."
Mickelson approached his initial trip to the grounds with the same attention to detail.
Taking upward of four hours to play each nine-hole split on Thursday and Friday, he insisted that he came away with a positive impression of the course.
"I thought it was a very interesting golf course," Mickelson said. "I thought it was a modern-day links golf course, and everything about it was a British Open to me. The grass, the style, the shots needed -- I thought everything about it was a British Open. Nothing resembled your stereotypical U.S. Open and everything resembled a British Open."
Therein lies an outlook that can be considered part-explanation and part-self convincing.
Mickelson owns a record six U.S. Open runner-up finishes, but he finally figured out the Open Championship two years ago when he triumphed at Muirfield. While he might stop short of driving on the left side of the road and dining on haggis each evening, training his mind to believe he's competing in the other Open could make a positive impact on his mental approach to the week.
Mickelson doesn't expect Chambers Bay to reach extreme levels of play, as we've witnessed at other U.S. Open venues.
"I don't see it getting out of hand at all," he said. "I don't see the wind being as strong as a typical British Open. They won't be able to get the greens very fast, to where they're out of control. Certainly, there's a lot of contour, but around the hole where the pin placements are, they seem very fair. I really enjoyed it."
While calling the course "challenging," Woods stopped short of announcing that he enjoyed playing there.
He said he believes the level of difficulty will exist in Davis' decision-making, as it's a track that can be as punishing as he'd like it to be.
"I don't know what he's going to present to USGA," said Woods. "He could make it to where it's just brutal or he can make it to where it's pretty easy and give us a combination of both, and then switch it up on every other hole. That's going to be the interesting part, is just trying to figure that out."
Together, Woods and Mickelson have played about 10 months of U.S. Open competitions. The pair hasn't seen it all, though. They aren't done studying.
Those recent scouting trips left each player with some definitive opinions as to how the course will play two weeks from now. But for just as many answers as they received, plenty of questions still remain.