- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

SAMMAMISH, Wash. (AP) The week after the final major championship of the season usually finds Tiger Woods on a golf course with thick trees lining both sides of the fairway.
That's about the only thing Sahalee and Firestone have in common.
The NEC Invitational is still a World Golf Championship. It still pays $1million to the winner. Woods' name is still on the trophy in fact his is the only name on the trophy.
But when Woods stepped onto the first tee yesterday morning before most folks in Seattle had their first cup of coffee, it didn't take long for the three-time defending champion to realize he wasn't in Ohio any more.
"It's different playing up in the Pacific Northwest," he said. "The ball doesn't fly quite as far because the air is a little bit heavier. I hit a lot of 7-irons from 150. The 7-iron I hit last week [in the PGA Championship] on Sunday at 17 was 195."
Woods would rather be at Firestone, where he won the first three NEC Invitationals and has shot in the 60s his last eight rounds on the Akron, Ohio, course.
Instead, Sahalee is the course he will have to conquer starting today as he tries to become the first player in 75 years to win the same event four years in a row.
Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship from 1924-27, a match-play major that was played at French Lick in Indiana; Olympic Fields outside Chicago; Salisbury Golf Club on Long Island and Cedar Crest in Dallas.
Woods has gone Firestone, Firestone, Firestone and now faces Sahalee, site of the '98 PGA Championship where he broke par just once in four days and finished in a tie for 10th.
"I'd like it to be at Firestone. I've played well there," he said. "The Northwest has also been very good to me."
One of those occasions was at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon, where he won an unprecedented third straight U.S. Amateur title and then turned professional two days later in 1996.
Since then, Woods has won 33 times on the PGA Tour and eight majors, became the youngest man (24) to complete the career Grand Slam and the only man to win all four majors in a row.
He has won five of the eight World Golf Championship events he has played.
Woods had a chance to join Hagen earlier this year in Ohio, but stumbled in the first couple of rounds at the Memorial and his three-year reign ended with him tying for 22nd place, eight strokes behind Jim Furyk.
Woods won the Buick Open two weeks ago and is coming off his first runner-up finish in a major, second to Rich Beem at the PGA Championship despite Woods making birdie on his final four holes.

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