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Woods Prepares For PGA At Buick
by Larry Lage

GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) ? Tiger Woods has a new target, now that he can't win the Grand Slam this year.

Woods can be the first golfer to win three majors in one year twice, if his warmup during the Buick Open leads to a victory at next week's PGA Championship.

"Myself and (Ben) Hogan are the only ones who have ever won three in the same year," Woods said Wednesday after shooting a 6-under 66 in the Buick Open Pro-Am. "So, that would be nice to win three out of four again."

A slew of major winners and money-list leaders are choosing to play - rather than practicing and resting - before playing Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., next week.

Fifteen of the last 19 major winners and four of the top five and 12 of the top 20 on the money list will prepare for the fourth and final major at Warwick Hills, about 60 miles north of Detroit.

Woods is playing in his first tournament since the British Open where he finished tied for 28th - following a third-round 81, his worse score as a professional - and spoiled his chance of winning the Grand Slam.

Woods said he didn't dwell on his poor round and refused to wonder `'What if?" after closing with a 65 at Muirfield.

"You've got to put it out of your head and move on," Woods said. "It's a sport. It's not life or death.

"If you did that every event you lost, you'd go nuts."

Woods played a practice round at Hazeltine on Tuesday with fellow pro Mark O'Meara, but insisted his goal was to win the Buick Open, not merely prepare for the PGA Championship.

Woods said the strong field in the Buick Open will help.

"It certainly brings out the best in just about every player," he said. "And, I think it provides a better atmosphere for all the fans."

Woods alone can create a buzz.

Hundreds of fans watched Woods practice at 6:30 a.m., and hundreds more followed him for four-plus hours during the Pro-Am.

Woods said he's accustomed to the following he attracts, but he's still not comfortable with it.

"My father has always said, 'You don't have to like it. You just have to accept it and understand it,' which I've done," he said. "You always wish you could have the privacy that you had when you were a kid, or back in college, or when you were anonymous and no one knew who you were.

"Then again, if you're not playing well, that's kind of how you end up being. So, I'd much rather be this way because at least I'm playing well."

Phil Mickelson, who will soon have another chance to win his first major, said Warwick Hills will help get him ready for Hazeltine.

"It's a great preparation because it's a similar style of golf, similar tree lines and so forth," said Mickelson, who trails only Woods on the money list. "But what's really cool is that they have wonderful practice facilities here where you can work on your game. And it's a course that requires you to maneuver the ball both ways, right-to-left and left-to-right.

"It's also a course that you can gain confidence on because there are a lot of birdie holes out here with the par-5s and the drivable par-4s on 12 and 14. You have holes that you feel you should birdie just about every time."

Buick Open champions usually do.

Last year, Kenny Perry shot 66-64-64-69 for a 21-under 263 total, one stroke off Robert Wrenn's 1987 tournament record. Billy Mayfair set the PGA Tour nine-hole record with a 9-under 27 and broke the tour's birdie-eagle streak with eight straight on the back nine during last year's final round.

Scott Verplank, who won at 16 under in 1988, said low scores are not inevitable on this course.

"If it gets windy, you will not see guys in the 20s," Verplank said. "It really comes down to the same thing, whether you're playing a major or not. You've got to keep it out of the rough, get it on the green and take advantage of your birdie opportunities."


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