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As if he needs more, Tiger carrying a cartful of confidence
Fresh off his final-round domination of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week, Tiger Woods enters the 89th PGA Championship feeling mighty fine. "I just think that winning gives you confidence no matter what," he said.
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.com Correspondent
TULSA -- Not his kind of course.
That's the rumor, at least. Might as well be Roger Federer on clay.
You've heard he doesn't like the doglegs. That Southern Hills has too much movement for him. That he doesn't like it. That, well, he tied for a miserable 12th here at the 2001 U.S. Open.
That it's simply not his year.
Tiger Woods is amused. And oh so used to hearing just that.
"I tend to get that at courses where I played there once and didn't win," Woods said with one of those huge grins. "Kind of the way it goes. It is what it is. "
And this? It's the last major of the year. Glory's last shot. And Tiger's last chance to go 0-for-2007 in majors.
He's not alone, of course. Yet we tend to measure Tiger's years by how much closer he's edging toward Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. And so far, he's had two ties for second (Masters, U.S. Open) and a T12 at last month's Open Championship. The four wins? Well, even he called this only a pretty good year.
"I just think the major championships are valued that highly, and I've come close," he said. "I just haven't got it done yet."
So what does the defending champion -- he won his third PGA last year at Medinah -- really think going into this 89th PGA Championship? Other than the fact that he's finished with his pre-tournament work and plans to chill out -- no pun intended -- Wednesday and not practice in 100-plus degrees?
"I like this golf course," he said. "It certainly does have some movement to it. But you know, we're all basically playing the same spots anyways. Whether the golf course ... people tend to forget, Augusta has a lot of movement, too, from both ways. You have to shape the golf ball both ways; this week you'll probably be shaping it with less club. That's about it."
In 2001, Southern Hills exposed Tiger's swing. He wasn't hitting the ball well, but he kept himself in it -- or at least in touch -- with a pair of closing 69s and some extraordinary putting. Even when the ninth and 18th greens were running different speeds.
Six years and the PGA setup instead of the U.S. Open's penal setup later, Tiger said the field faces an interesting twist.
"The fairways this week are narrower than they were for the Open, but the rough is not as deep. The greens, all 18, are the same speed," he paused, smiling. "So that's nice.
"But overall, I think the golf course is very similar, except for I think some of the landing areas have been pinched in just a touch. But the rough is still penal because if you get the ball in there, as I said it's marginal whether you can get it to the green or not; and if you can get to the green, you can't control it."
Tiger was nothing, if not in control at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week where he came from behind to win his sixth Bridgestone title in nine years. This one, by eight shots.
"I just think that winning gives you confidence no matter what," he said. "I feel good about the way I played and the way I managed my game and made some nice putts on Sunday. It felt good to win.
"You know, that golf course has always ... I don't know why, just given me a sense of confidence every time I go there. It did again this year. Hopefully I can carry what happened last week into this week."
So, after struggling earlier this year with his swing, someone asked, does this mean the swing's back? That all's right in Tigerland and he's got it?
"You never feel like you have it," he said. "That's one of the great things about this game of golf.
"But as far as this year, it's been very interesting this year. You know, if I've hit it well, I haven't putted well. And if I've hit it great, or if I've hit it poorly, I've made everything. It's just like, can I get the two together, somehow. It just hasn't materialized for some reason consistently enough."
At the Wachovia Championship, Tiger didn't hit the ball well, but putted lights out. At the U.S. Open, it was just the opposite.
"Welcome to golf, eh?" he said with a shrug and a grin.
The talk here is more of the heat -- measured in triple digits BEFORE you add the humidity index -- and a fourth consective first-time major winner than of Tiger's chances to win his 13th. None of which bothers Tiger.
In fact, the heat should play into his -- and other players like Vijay Singh's -- intense training regimens. With the index, it could feel as hot as 110 some days, hot enough to make a quesadilla on the sidewalk.
Tiger just shrugs.
"I just change gloves more often," he said. "That's about it. As far as your concentration waning, I don't see how that can ever be a problem."
As for the doglegs? Don't expect to see Tiger whapping driver off the tee. He'll use mostly irons -- not unlike the 2006 Open Championship where he played a chess game at Hoylake and won.
"The ball's flying forever," he said. "I mean, it's going a long way. A couple of times, like today, Bubba (Watson) hit 6 iron off of 10 and I hit 5 iron. The ball's just going a long ways. Both of those shots went about 230 and 240."
A driver might find its way to Norman. Or, at the very least, Broken Arrow.
As for Tiger? He weighed in on the normal spate of pre-major questions, ranging from his influence on the world to the Presidents Cup to Scott Verplank and confidence.
Are there any holes that have you licking your chops? "Yeah, all 18."
On someone requesting an "immodest" answer about his ranking as the most influential athlete in the world: "as far as world athletes, I don't see how (David) Beckham didn't beat me. As far as global figures, he's probably far more global than I am. "
Can he ever be satisfied finishing second? "No."
On CBS' Jim Nantz saying he has a four-shot lead before the field tees it up: "I think we are all at even par right now. "
On Ryder Cup teammate and Oklahoma resident Scott Verplank: "He's one of the good guys out here. And for what he's had to battle through with the diabetes and, you know, people have no idea. I've had a couple of friends that have had to go through the same thing and had to use the pump; it's a tough way to live. But his attitude has been tremendous, and you know, proud to call him my friend. "
On finishing 21st here as a rookie at the 1996 TOUR Championship: "I don't remember '96 a whole lot, that was find of a fog."
On the difference between running cross country in high school and running now: "It's more golf specific; and back then it was trying to get myself physically fit where I could run basically five minute miles. "
On the heat: "It's not that bad. Just sweating a little bit."
On the British Open playoff: He didn't see it. "That's what happens when you finish early. "
On the last European to win the PGA, Tommy Armour, 1930: "Where did you pull that one out of?"
And last, but not least, someone asked if he ever went into a major thinking the tournament was his; that he had to win it.
If you know Tiger, you don't ask the question. Hence, the quizzical, almost incredulous look on his face. You can talk about the rumors of him not playing well at a certain course, not liking the layout or whatever else.
But asking him about winning?
"Well, the whole idea is to win," he said. "That's why you go to an event is to win. You don't go there to show up or I'm here to work on my farmer tan, shed a couple of pounds.
"You go out to win, period. That's why I'm here, and I give it everything I have to do that."
Whether you think it's his kind of course or not.