FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - Tiger Woods held the putter with only his left hand as he rapped a 60-foot putt across the practice green. Then he hit another putt with his right hand, a third putt with both hands in conventional style

Woods knows all the drills.

This is his 15th straight year playing in the U.S. Open and his third attempt this decade at joining an elite group as back-to-back champions in the so-called toughest test in golf.

Woods is the overwhelming favorite at Bethpage Black. The challenge figures to come from a familiar cast, whether it's Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy or Jim Furyk.

What gives the U.S. Open its charm, however, is the long shots.

Ogilvy finished warming up on the range yesterday and walked past players he had never seen. One of them was Scott Lewis, a 20-year-old amateur still trying to get over the shock of playing in his first U.S. Open.

Lewis just finished his sophomore year at the California-Santa Barbara, where his best finish this year was a tie for seventh in the Wyoming Desert Invitational. An alternate from sectional qualifying, he didn't learn he was in the U.S. Open until Friday. Before he could blink, he had an audience like never before.

"People are watching me hit balls," he said. "First time that's ever happened."

On the far end of the range was Clinton Jensen, a 34-year-old father of two young girls who quit golf for a couple of years until he realized he couldn't stay away. He is playing the Tar Heel Tour and wants to try Q-school again this fall.

The U.S. Open is the only major where more than 50 percent of the field is open to any player willing to qualify. The last player to go through 18-hole local qualifying and 36-hole sectional qualifying and win the U.S. Open was Orville Moody in 1969.

Lewis finished final exams Sunday, played in the sectional qualifier Monday, moved out of his house in Santa Barbara on Tuesday because his lease was up, traveled home to Henderson, Nev., spent Thursday unpacking, then began booking a flight to New York.

He took a red-eye and arrived yesterday morning.

"My head is spinning," Lewis said. "Everything happened so fast."

Pulling out. Shingo Katayama of Japan has withdrawn from the U.S. Open because of an injury to his upper back. Katayama, No. 39 in the world rankings, finished fourth at the Masters.