- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

DULUTH, Ga. In the midst of a mini-slump, Tiger Woods appears to have changed his approach to preparing for the majors.
Starting with his professional major debut at the 1997 Masters, the 25-year-old Woods had always followed the same routine the week before every U.S. major: He would sequester himself at home in Orlando, Fla., with swing instructor Butch Harmon and beat balls at Isleworth Country Club until he was satisfied with every facet of his game.
The folks at Buick, who pay Woods millions every year to endorse their automobiles, probably thought that was exactly what Woods had opted to do last week when he withdrew at the last minute from their Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich. Instead, Woods admitted yesterday that he did very little work on his game last week.
"My preparation coming here, I didn't really do much, to be honest with you," said Woods, who is attempting to win his third consecutive PGA Championship this week at the Atlanta Athletic Club. "I just kind of took it easy and relaxed at home … I wasn't home for a long period of time this year. I was either playing or hanging out and going on vacation, fishing trips and stuff like that. So, it was nice for me to go home and not have to look at the remote; my fingers already knew where to go. It was nice to just hang out and have everything dialed in just the way I like it."
That's a fairly drastic departure for the player who usually spends the week before a major trying to get his game dialed in just the way he likes it. And if he doesn't seem particularly concerned about the fact that he's finished outside of the top 10 in four consecutive starts for the first time since 1997, he definitely wasn't concerned about placating irked Buick officials yesterday.
Asked if he was happy with the decision he made not to play in the Buick Open, Woods responded: "Yeah, I'm happy I didn't play, because you had to shoot 40-under to win. It was nice just to get away from things for a little bit. I didn't touch a club for a while, and it was nice just kind of not doing much."
Since his string of four consecutive major victories was snapped at the U.S. Open in June, Woods has taken five of the last eight weeks off, gone on three fishing and hunting trips with Mark O'Meara and had just one practice session with Harmon. Still, Woods doesn't seem worried on a course that would seem well-suited to his strengths.
"I'm one of the [favorites]," said Woods. "I'm ready to play."

Double dip
The PGA of America will use a two-tee starting system this week at the PGA Championship, marking the first time in the history of the Grand Slams that players will start on both nines during play tomorrow and Friday. The decision was made primarily because the final groups barely had time to finish their rounds before darkness last year at Valhalla.
"It might be unusual, but I think it's a positive move," said two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer. "It is something we do in almost every other tournament we play in all year round. It's, in a way, a lot fairer. Sometimes you play in a tournament like the British Open where the tee times go from like 7 a.m. to 4:30 in the afternoon, and the morning guys could have a light wind and the afternoon guys could have no wind; you are playing totally different conditions. When you have a two-tee start, you have a lot more guys play the same conditions. Plus, it gives the the tournament directors more options if they have thunderstorms, bad weather … It's definitely a step in the right direction."

Glamour group
It's a safe bet that a majority of the fans on the property tomorrow morning will be piled against the ropes trying to follow the threesome of Woods, British Open champ and former Georgia Tech star David Duval and U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen. The PGA Championship's traditional pairing of the winners of the season's first three majors will start at 8:45 a.m. on the 10th tee.
"I'm going to need all the confidence I can get playing in the first two rounds with Tiger and David," said Goosen, who likely will spend the day hitting first from the fairway some 35 yards behind the game's dynamic duo. "It's going to be a good experience for me playing with probably the two best players in the world. It's going to be mentally a good test for me to see how I can perform under that sort of pressure, playing with those two guys in front of all the gallery that's going to be out there walking with us."

Augusta reaction
Almost every player on the property has voiced his opinion this week on the course changes at Augusta National. The Masters' home course is in the process of being lengthened some 200 yards for next year's tournament. The reviews were mixed, even among the longer hitters.
"I think the changes are tremendous," Phil Mickelson said. "I was hoping for those types of changes a long time ago … I think that adding length basically modernizes the course and has it playing the same as it did 50 years ago."
Said Duval: "I don't know the entire history of Augusta National, but I feel pretty certain that the greens 50 years ago or 40 years ago or even 30 years ago were not rolling at 12 or 13 [on the stimpmeter]. Maybe back then it was a little easier to hit 6-iron into maybe the 14th hole and keep it there. But there's a few holes that I would think if they play them a whole lot longer, you are going to have difficulty just hitting the ball onto the green and getting it to stay, let alone getting it close."
Said Woods: "Some of the holes they've changed. Take 13 it was already a great hole because of the risk-reward there; you could make three or seven … Now they have made it a lot longer, a lot of guys will be laying up, and you're going to see a lot less 3s and 7s and a lot more 4s and 5s … That's not nearly as exciting, which seems to go against the risk-reward principle that Bobby Jones had in mind at Augusta National."

Quote of the day
Sergio Garcia, when asked if he was intimidated by the fact that no European had won the PGA Championship in 70 years (Tommy Armour, 1930).
"Actually, I don't really find it too intimidating because I didn't know that."

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