Sun Rises and Falls on Woods

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. ' Tiger Woods loves the serenity of a pre-dawn practice round. Its his sanctuary.
 
Peace of mind, he said Wednesday at the Disney Golf Classic. Im able to play in peace and not be hounded for autographs and pictures when Im getting ready to play a tournament.
 
The prospect of beating fans, media and even the sun to the course stemmed from Woods tour mentor Mark OMeara. The elder statesman took Woods, in his first full season on the PGA Tour in 1997, out early at Bay Hill. Ever since, Tigers afternoons have been filled with workouts, rest and practice sessions ' not practice rounds.
 
But what about waking up consistently at 5 in the morning?
 
I dont sleep very much, he said. Everything changed in college. I used to be a big, heavy sleeper, but when I went to college, I pulled all-nighters without any problem.
 
He also doesnt have any problem getting loose in the mornings. He said he doesnt stretch, doesnt hit range balls, doesnt warm up. But hes not yet ready to take that approach into an official round.
 
I should do that, he quipped. Ive thought about doing a (Carlos) Franco. I just dont have the guts to do it, Woods said in reference to the practice-deficient Paraguayan noted for his ability to pick up and play.
 
Of course, its never that easy for the worlds No. 1. Some feel inconvienced by his self-accommodation.
 
Such was the case at the Ryder Cup, Woods most recent appearance on a golf course. After three days of following protocol, U.S. captain Curtis Strange told Tiger and the rest of the team to prepare like they would for a major championship on Thursday, the day before the matches were to start.
 
He did just that, going out at 6:30 AM alongside Mark Calcavecchia. That created hullabaloo with the foreign press, who was furious over the fact that many spectators, who had paid 45 pounds ($60) for a one-day pass, didnt get to see the games best.
 
If youre one of the top players, you are going to get criticized a little more than the other guys. Thats whats transpired this year, Woods said. People forget that Calc played with me during the practice round, and he didnt get criticized at all. Just Curtis and myself. It was unfair.
 
Thats the way it is for Woods. On and off the course, hes got a target on his back. If an issue arises, petty or prominent, Woods can be assured hell somehow be in the mix.
 
Aside from his A.M. incident at The Belfry, he was taken to task for not being a team player, wearing a different outfit than most of his teammates on Day 1. He said the players were given a choice of what they wanted to wear each day, and he simply chose to wear a white turtle neck and red sweater vest instead of the red polo and blue sweater vest.
 
He also said the players had discussions with the PGA of America in order to try to make the Ryder Cup, which is a week-long workload outined in strict regimen, more fun for the players. The PGAs response said Woods: Well get back to you.
 
Woods isnt all-powerful, but his opinion carries the bulk of the Hulk.
 
As a three-time Masters champion he was forced to speak out on the fact that Augusta National Golf Club has no female members.
 
I said it a long time ago and I stick by what I said. Everybody has a right to do what they want. Is it unfair? Yes, its unfair. Do I want to see a female member? Yes. But, its our right to have any club set up the way we want to.
 
That was not a satisfactory answer for some.
 
Everyone wants to have someone (else) say what they believe in. Thats human nature, Woods said.
 
Woods further elaborated on the subject Wednesday, saying if the two sides, primarily Augusta Chairman Hootie Johnson and National Council of Womens Organization Chairperson Martha Burk, would just sit down and talk, the issue might finally be resolved.
 
Hootie is right and Martha is right. Thats the problem. They are both right but are going about it the wrong way, Woods said. There is no substitute in sitting down and having a face-to-face conversation about it. There is no substitute for looking someone in the eye.'
 
Oh, the inner-sanctuary of being inside the ropes. Where Tiger only has to hit high draws and low fades and make putts,' and doesn't have to concern himself with bureaucracy.
 
In his two weeks off following the Ryder Cup, where he played the second day with a 102-degree fever, Woods rested, recovered, and didnt pick up a club until a couple of days ago.
 
Now, hes anxious to shake off the rust and make a final sprint to the finish line of another phenomenal season.
 
One of the best Ive ever had. Won two majors, won six events worldwide, he said. Im making one more run at the end of the year. Thats why I did shut it down and didnt do anything. I tried to make sure I was physically ready for this long stretch coming up.
 
While stating that this was one of his best years outside the otherworldly 2000 campaign, Woods said it wasnt necessarily his most enjoyable season.
 
You have to look at two different things. What I do on the golf course, performance-wise - thats me, and what I do for a living. Thats my passion. The other stuff is my opinion, and I get crushed for giving my opinion when asked, he said.
 
Woods, a two-time Disney winner, still has the season finale at the Tour Championship, the Dunlop Phoenix Open in Japan, the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and Skins Game in the same week, and his own Target World Challenge.
 
And if you want to see him preparing for these events, set your alarm.
 
Full field and tee times for the Disney Golf Classic