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Friday, March 25, 2011

Tiger Woods guns for breakthrough at Bay Hill


TIGER Woods may not be the dominant figure he once was, but tournament host Arnold Palmer wouldn’t be surprised to see the former No. 1 end his 16-month victory drought at Bay Hill this week.

I’ve obviously been watching his game, just like everyone else has,” Palmer said. “I feel like Tiger has a golf game that he can come to the surface any time. I think that’s certainly a possibility here. I would just not count him out at all.

I think he’s capable of winning any time,” he added.

Woods is a six-time winner at Bay Hill, including his last two appearances in 2008 and 2009.

Woods acknowledges that he doesn’t yet have the consistency with his re-tooled swing that he once could count on and victory this week would be a big boost heading into the first major championship of the year, the Masters at Augusta National April 7 to 10.

They are bigger changes, and it’s taken a little bit of time,” Woods said of the much-discussed swing changes implemented with coach Sean Foley. “Then again, I’ve showed some good signs of late.

That included a closing 66 at Doral, and a good showing at the made-for-television Tavistock Cup exhibition.

And I’ve had good practice sessions. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” he added.

Woods will be paired in the first two rounds with power-hitters Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland.

I’ll be the Corey Pavin of my group,” Woods quipped, acknowledging that while he was once one of the tour’s longest hitters compared to his playing partners he’ll be giving up plenty of yards off the tee.

Woodland won his first US Professional Golfers’ Association title on Sunday, sinking tension-packed putts for a birdie at the 17th hole and his only back-nine par at 18 to win the Transitions Championship by one stroke.

Johnson was runner-up at the World Golf Championshipsn (WGC) event at Doral two weeks ago and leads the US tour in birdies with an average of 5.05 a round.

Seriously. I’ll just kind of put it out there in play and put it up on the green and try to make putts,” Woods said.

Finding consistency on the greens will certainly be a key for Woods, who clinched his 2009 victory here with a 15-foot birdie putt at the final hole.

Woods said that he had become a less consistent putter simply because he practiced less.

Other notables in the field include defending champion Ernie Els of South Africa, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Phil Mickelson, who added the tournament to his schedule as he tries to get his game in shape for Augusta. AFP


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