(Morry Gash ~ Associated Press)
OAKMONT, Pa. -- The 2 a.m. feedings. The sleepless nights. Those first tiny baby steps and the first mumblings of "Da-da."
Tiger Woods is so eager to be a dad, it wouldn't be a surprise if he reached for his yardage book and pulled out Dr. Spock instead -- there's no hiding that I'm-soon-to-be-a-father beam.
Ask about the baby that wife Elin expects to deliver next month, and Woods says, "This is far more important than any game of golf."
"Your nights are going to be a little more awake," Woods said Tuesday, contemplating what fatherhood will mean to the world's No. 1 golfer. "My practice sessions are going to have to be tailored around a little bit, have to move things around."
Before he becomes Pops Woods, however, there's the matter of this week's U.S. Open.
Woods played his seventh practice round Tuesday at Oakmont, and for all of the fretting and fussing about how difficult it is, he seems eager to confront one of the few world-class championship courses he hasn't played in competition.
"I've had success in the past on difficult golf courses before, yes," he said.
To Woods, playing Oakmont is far easier than the much more difficult test he had a year ago at Winged Foot, barely a month after his father, Earl, died of cancer.
Woods knew he was losing his dad and spent considerable time with him during his final days -- and, because of it, didn't play between the Masters and the U.S. Open.
That Woods missed the cut in a major for the first time by shooting a 76-76 might have been the result of where his mind was, not necessarily where his golf game was.
"I wasn't quite ready to play until I got to the U.S. Open -- probably not exactly the best tournament to come back to," Woods said. "So this year, I'm going to be a father, you know, shortly, and I think it's a complete polar opposite of where I was last year at this time."
Woods, seeking his 13th major championship, tied for 15th at the Memorial two weeks ago in his last tournament tuneup for Oakmont. But he has won nine of his last 13 tournaments, and he's the runaway No. 1 in the world rankings, more than doubling No. 2 Phil Mickelson in the standings.
Johnny Miller, the 1973 Open champion at Oakmont, especially likes what he is seeing from Woods this week: the work ethic, the attitude, the confidence.
"Felt good vibrations from Tiger Woods," Miller said. "He looks like he's right on his game."
Another edge to Woods: Oakmont's toughness. Sergio Garcia says it should be a par 78, not a 70, and that almost certainly means someone else can't run away with the tournament. Especially with the leaderboards likely to be showing more black than red by Saturday.
While Woods hasn't played Oakmont competitively, not many others have, either -- this is the first Open here since 1994, and only 12 in this field played back then. Woods has played as many or more practice rounds here than anyone, too, beginning in April.
"I'm pleased with the things that I've been working on and pleased at the progress that I've been making in my practice rounds," Woods said. "Honestly, [I[']m] really looking forward to Thursday."
A 667-yard par 5? A par 3 that stretches to nearly 300 yards? The fastest greens the 31-year-old Woods has seen in his career? And he's looking forward to this?
"No, I think it's fantastic," he said. "This golf course is, without a doubt, difficult. We all know that. But it's also fair. I just think that we're going to see what happens on pin locations, because they can go crazy on pin locations and make it impossible. But if they put pins in generous spots, I think it will be just a fantastic test."