Thursday, December 18

Only pressure Woods feels is from self
By David Kraft


CHASKA, Minn. -- On the drive to Hazeltine National, the Leeann Chin Chinese restaurant has an offer golf's biggest name seemingly can't refuse.

In red letters on the roof, it says: TIGER EATS HERE FREE.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods and John Cook are all smiles Tuesday at a practice round for the PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods loves Asian-inspired food (though not as much as cheeseburgers). It's been part of the menu for the champions' dinner at The Masters when Woods has done the ordering.

But despite their best wishes, the folks at the Leeann Chin won't need to save a seat for the Woods party during this week at the PGA Championship.

"House ... course," Woods said, talking about his routine at majors. "Course ... house. House ... course. Course ... house."

Seemingly no time for dim sum, though Woods and his buddy Mark O'Meara probably will fire up the barbecue at some point. And no trip to Mall of America -- Woods says he wouldn't mind looking in, but isn't much of a shopper.

So what Woods is left with is plenty of time to ponder the possibilities of winning a third major championship in a single season for the second time in his career. Nobody has ever managed the feat.

"I've had a great year," Woods said Tuesday after practicing. "Any time you can win one major championship in a year, it's going to be a successful year. I think winning two in one year so far, it's been even better.

"I'd like to make it three."

Woods, as always, is the focus at a major championship. The spotlight isn't what it might have been had Woods won the British Open last month -- and therefore poised himself for the Grand Slam. And since that rainy Saturday at the British Open when he shot 81 -- his highest score as a professional -- Woods has been inundated with questions about the Slam, and the fact he can't win it here.

Is he thinking about what might have been? "No."

Does he appreciate the hype? "I think it's (the media's) responsibility. (It's) your fault, for building it up."

Fans out early
for a Tiger hunt
CHASKA, Minn. -- The gates at Hazeltine National Golf Club opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday. What followed was a chaotic chase to find Tiger Woods.

Thousands of fans -- there were estimates that 40,000 spectators came out at various times Tuesday -- streamed across the course like ants in search of a bread crumb, running this direction and that, begging marshals for clues. They clutched hats, programs, flags and their PGA Championship tickets for him to sign.

The first sighting came on the fifth hole, where about 200 people gathered. Within an hour, the crowd was about 5,000 and growing by the minute.

Woods can't win the Grand Slam this year. Fans in Minnesota couldn't care less.

"They love their golf,'' Woods said. "From what I've been told, they come out here in full force, and they're going to be loud and boisterous.''

-- The Associated Press

And his struggles on Saturday at Muirfield? "I explained it. You guys all saw it. It wasn't exactly easy conditions on Saturday of a (British) Open championship. That's what happens sometimes."

End of discussion, at least as far as Woods is concerned.

Instead, Woods insists he's focused on the PGA, a tournament he's won twice (1999 at Medinah and 2000 at Valhalla). His victory last week at the Buick Open, when he won without playing his best over the weekend, gives him a chance to become only the third man in the last 40 years to win the week before a major, and then follow it up (the others were Lee Trevino at the Canadian Open/British Open in 1971, and Sandy Lyle at Greensboro/The Masters in 1988).

"The pressure is internal," Woods said. "I want to play well for my own sake. I have my own goals, and that's to win. That's why I play. I love competing. I love winning championships."

As he did at the British Open and again last week at the Buick, Woods won't hit many drivers. He's content with his 3-wood on the par-5s, and his low-trajectory missile-like 2-iron that he's hitting off the tee on the par-4s.

He can't reach the 636-yard par-5 third hole in two, and won't get to the 597-yard par-5 11th more than once, he estimates.

"Most of the holes, for me, fit better with a 3-wood, especially now that the golf course is playing a lot faster," Woods said. "I can trap my 2-iron down there and hit it 280 or 290 because the ball is getting 40, 50 yards of roll."

Hazeltine sets up like Medinah did in 1999, when Woods edged Sergio Garcia for his first PGA. It's long (7,360 yards), demanding but without the nasty streak that marked Bethpage Black at the U.S. Open.

It's the kind of course that sets up well for Phil Mickelson, Garcia, Ernie Els, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh -- long hitters who can get the ball close to the pin from the fairway.

But it sets up best for Woods, just like it always does during this stretch where he's won seven of the last 12 majors.

"Let's face it, we are playing in the era of one of the greatest players ever, maybe the greatest," Els said. "When you have a player with that kind of talent, he's going to win a lot of golf tournaments. He's very focused. His swing is very sound. He's got everything going for him and he's got a lot of confidence."

Woods doesn't disagree.

"I take the same focus, the same approach to each and every major championship, and that is to peak and get my game mentally and physically ready for this one week," Woods said. "I try and do it four times a year. And so far, I've done it two times -- two and three-quarters times."

Woods laughed. So did the assembled media. A rainy Saturday in Muirfield went unspoken -- at least in Woods' presence.

One reporter even asked Woods if the fact that he won't win the Grand Slam is good for golf.

"You know what, dude," Woods said. "I can't give that to you."

Shortly thereafter, Woods left Hazeltine to spend some time on the putting green, and then back to his rented house. There isn't a stop at Leeann Chin on his schedule between now and Sunday.

But there's always take-out.










ALSO SEE  
Harig: Woods sees no letdown for PGA

 
While similar, Els and Mickelson seem worlds apart

 
Notebook: Strange starts the team-building process

AUDIO / VIDEO  
Video
 Hazeltine on 3
Tiger Woods is partial to the idea of winning his third major championship of 2002.
Standard | Cable Modem



 
ESPN.com: HELP | ADVERTISER INFO | CONTACT US | TOOLS | PR
Copyright 2001 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site. Employment opportunities at ESPN.com.