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Woods Ready to Play

Tiger Woods hopes this will be the week that reverses the recent flow of his season and turns the tide on his winless ways ' though brief they may be ' in the Buick Classic.
For just the second time in his last six opportunities, Woods will be playing the week after a major championship.
I had to get over this U.S. Open pretty quickly so I could be focused and ready for this tournament, he said Wedneday before his practice round.
Woods is in the field only because he skipped the Wachovia Championship in May.
I needed to find a couple other tournaments throughout the year I was going to play, Woods explained on why he was competing this week. They gave me an exemption when I was an amateur here and I wanted to come back and play.
Woods first played in this event as an 18-year-old amateur in 1994, when he missed the cut. He has increasingly performed better. He tied for 43rd in 1997, and tied for 16th in 2001.
This is one of only five tour events that Tiger has played more than once and not won (International, Phoenix Open, Nissan Open and Ford Championship at Doral).
Woods arrived on site Tuesday, but didnt start practice until Wednesday. He played only nine holes due to rain.
The worlds No. 1-ranked player is making just his eighth tour start this year, and ninth overall. He skipped the first two months to rehab his left knee, following arthroscopic surgery in December.
Woods said that, more than anything, the knee has affected his practice sessions.
I dont hit as many balls as I used to, but Im more focused when I hit balls now because I have to be, he said. Its quality versus quantity.
In some regards its better because I get more accomplished. In other regards, when I start to find something and I feel that I really can start working on it, I have to take a look at the big picture and say, you know what, maybe I should take a rest for a couple of hours and then come back and hit more balls.
Woods said his doctors have advised him to take the cautious route, because of the longevity available in his sport.
If I was playing football or basketball and I had a short lifespan in my sport, I wouldnt be doing that, he said. But with golf, I have a pretty big window to compete, so its a matter of being able to stretch it out as long as I want to stay active in the sport.
Woods appeared invincible when he returned from surgery and promptly won three of his first four tournaments. But since then, he has finished inside the top 10 only once in five starts, including last weeks disappointing tie for 20th in his title defense.
I sat back Sunday night and took a hard look at some of the things I did ' some of the things I did wrong, some of the things I did right ' and tried to really learn from what I did, he said.
Woods was forced to deal with incessant questioning at Olympia Fields as to whether or not his current winless streak on tour warrants use of the S word (it rhymes with 'hump')..
I dont know what everyones need is for categorizing everything, Woods said. If I go on and win a couple of tournaments, all of a sudden Im playing great, unstoppable, and I dont win two weeks in a row, then all of a sudden Im in a slump again.
Ive won, what, three times this yearif youre batting over .300 in tournament wins, thats pretty good.
If Woods goes on to win this week, then go ahead and get your bets down for a Jim Furyk triumph in 2004.
Furyks last three victories have come in tournaments where Woods was the defending champion. That list includes the 2001 Mercedes Championships, 2002 Memorial Tournament and, of course, the 2003 U.S. Open.
Furyk said hes a little exhausted following his first major triumph. After staying up late Sunday night, he had to be up at 6:00 AM Monday for a pre-scheduled corporate outing.
After a pit stop at his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., he made his way north Tuesday night.
It may be a little more difficult to hold some concentration or focus, and Im not sure how long that will last, but its well worth it, Furyk said.
He added that he never gave thought to withdrawing this week.
Eventually I was going to come and sit in the media room and sign autographs out there and do the things that go along with winning the U.S. Open, so might as well jump into it, he said.
Furyk, who is making his 11th career appearance, has a good track record in this event. He lost to J.P. Hayes in a playoff in 1998. He also tied for third in '97 and tied for ninth a year ago.
Maybe it's because he was born in West Chester, Penn., that he performs so well at Westchester Country Club.
I like the golf course, mostly. I grew up in southeast Pennsylvania on an old golf course, he said. I would put it on the top 10 of the courses we play on the PGA Tour.
Furyk will be trying to follow in the footsteps of Ernie Els and Hale Irwin, both of whom won this event the week after capturing the U.S. Open; Els in 1997, Irwin in 1990.
I feel good physically about my game, but I think its quite a feat to hold it together emotionally and keeping your concentration, he said.
Related Links:
  • Full coverage of the Buick Classic