ROCHESTER: World number one Tiger Woods tries to snap a five-year major win drought and claim his 80th career title starting today in the 95th PGA Championship at formidable Oak Hill.
Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus, served notice he is on form with a seven-stroke triumph at last week’s World Golf Championships event at Firestone, giving him five victories this year.
“I feel good about my gorm right now. I’m very pleased with where my game is at,” said Woods, who shared sixth at the British Open three weeks ago at Muirfield.
Second-ranked Phil Mickelson, whose fifth major triumph at the British Open came a week after a Scottish Open win, Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, US Open champion Justin Rose of England and countryman Lee Westwood, a Muirfield contender until the final holes, also figure to be in the hunt for the top prize of $1.445 million at the $8 million event.
But they also appreciate how dangerous Woods can be with confidence and the hunger for a first major title since the 2008 US Open.
“Having Tiger Woods back, having him play as well as he is right now, having him win like he has won this year is great for the game of golf. He is playing solid and played great last week,” said Mickelson.
And they have a course that can create plenty of danger.
Oak Hill has hosted two prior PGA Championships, three US Opens and the 1995 Ryder Cup, and the par-70 layout has been expanded to 7,163 yards.
“The scores are going to be really good,” predicted Mickelson. “You are going to have a great discrepancy in the scores. If you play well you can make birdies. If you hit it poorly you are going to be severely penalised with thick rough.
“The course is a fair, difficult test that you want without going over the edge and without trying to protect par. It’s just the perfect fair test. It’s one of the best setups that I’ve ever seen for that.”
The rough is thick and tall but graduated off the fairways, a boon on some of the sloped fairways Oak Hill offers.
“It’s imperative to hit the ball in the fairways and on the greens because it’s going to be tough to get up and down,” said Woods.
“This is one of those courses where you have just got to bring it ball-striking-wise. You’ve got to hit the ball well.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2013.
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