Woods Tries to End Dry Spell at Riviera

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LOS ANGELES -- Tiger Woods won the Masters by a record 12 shots in his first Grand Slam event as a pro, so he never had the burden of being the best player to never win a major.
 
The best to never win at Riviera?
 
Jack Nicklaus never won here either, although he only played it eight times.
 
The Nissan Open is the first PGA Tour event Woods attended, and he made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old in 1992, missing the cut by six shots.
 
While he calls it his favorite stop among regular tournaments, the record doesn't bear that out.

It's the only place Woods has played at least five times without winning.
 
That's not to suggest the No. 1 player in golf is feeling pressure.
 
'Not at all,' he said Wednesday. 'I enter an event, I try to win.'
 
Woods has come close a couple of times.
 
He tied for second, two shots behind Ernie Els in 1999.
 
The year before, Woods had his only playoff loss on the PGA Tour when Billy Mayfair beat him on the first extra hole. But that doesn't really count, because the Nissan Open was played at Valencia Country Club that year.
 
Woods gets another crack this week at Riviera against a field that includes defending champion Mike Weir, Vijay Singh and John Daly, fresh off his first PGA Tour victory in nine years.
 
'It's one of the best-designed golf courses that we play all year,' Woods said. 'It's hard, but it's fair. It's right there in front of you, no hidden surprises.'
 
It should come as no surprise that Riviera was wet and sloppy Wednesday. It's a tournament that has had its share of rain over the last five years.
 
The forecast is for scattered showers the rest of the week, meaning the course will play long and soft. That could make a big difference on the 475-yard 18th hole, which has been lengthened by 24 yards, and the tee lowered 4 1/2 feet to make it play even more up the hill.
 
A year ago, Charles Howell III reached the 18th green with a sand wedge.
 
Now, Woods wonders whether some will be able to get to the fairway at the top of the hill.
 
Hal Sutton won the 1983 PGA Championship at Riviera by one shot over Nicklaus. Asked what he thought of the changes, Sutton replied, 'I miss Riviera.'
 
Woods grew up about 40 miles away in Cypress, although he didn't exactly hop over to Riviera on the weekends. The club is private and exclusive, and Woods can recall playing there only about a dozen times as a teenager.
 
He said he was 11 or 12 when he played there the first time, but doesn't remember his score.
 
'I did break 90,' he said.
 
Some of golf's greatest players have one trophy missing from the mantle.
 
Palmer never won the PGA Championship in 37 tries. Tom Watson was 0-for-31 in the PGA, while Sam Snead played the U.S. Open 31 times without winning.
 
Those, however, are majors, the most difficult to win.
 
Among regular PGA Tour events, Woods hopes he's not heading down the same path as Nicklaus in the Canadian Open. Nicklaus played it 25 times without winning, although he was a runner-up five times. Even more frustrating was that 15 of those tournaments were played at Glen Abbey, a course Nicklaus designed.
 
Woods has shot in the 60s only 10 times in 20 rounds at Riviera. He has only two top 10s, including a tie for fifth last year when he closed with a 65 but was never in contention.
 
Even at his best, Woods was no match for Riviera.
 
Woods had one stretch four years ago when he won or finished second in 10 out of 11 tournaments. The exception, of course, was Riviera. He tied for 18th.
 
Few other courses require players to shape the ball off the tee, or have a bunker in the middle of the green (No. 6). The small greens and subtle contours are one reason scoring records don't come easily at Riviera.
 
'You don't have to have pot bunkers that are two stories deep off the tees,' Woods said. 'If the greens are small and hard, you'll have a tough time getting it close.'
 
That's one reason the 72-hole scoring record at Riviera - 20-under 264 by Lanny Wadkins - has stood for 18 years, a rarity these days.
 
Even rarer is a course Woods can't seem to master.
 
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