June 29, 2005

Woods hopes to bring putter in line at Western Open

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With his driver under control TigerWoods will attempt to bring his putter in line this week at theWestern Open in Lemont, Illinois, his traditional British Opentuneup.

Making his first start since a runnerup finish to MichaelCampbell at the U.S. Open, Woods will have spent much of histime over the last two weeks working on his putting which badlylet him down at Pinehurst No. 2.

If not for a disobedient putter, it is likely Woods wouldhave added a 10th major championship to his trophy case at theU.S. Open.

His swing overhaul all but complete, he was the best of the83 players at reaching greens in regulation at Pinehurst butwas third last in the putting charts.

The large, tiered greens on the Dubsdread course at CogHill Golf & Country Club should provide the world number onewith a good indication at how well his putter is performing.

With over 100 sand bunkers sprinkled across the par 71layout, Cog Hill also places a premium on driving accuracy anda strong short game, helping to explain Woods three victorieshere in 1997, 1999 and 2003.

Vijay Singh, who has waged a see-saw battle with Woods thisseason for the number one ranking, cannot count the Westernamong his 27 career PGA Tour wins but did finish runnerup toJoe Durant in 1998.

Before missing the cut at the Memorial two weeks before thestart of the U.S. Open, Singh had been in scintillating formwith two wins, two seconds and a pair of third place finishesin nine previous starts.

A sixth place finish at the U.S. Open followed by a seventhat the Barclays Classic last week indicates the second rankFijian is back close to his best.

One of the oldest events on the PGA Tour dating back to1899, the Western attracts a quality field but this year willlack a bit of international flavour with many of the topEuropean players deciding to cross the Atlantic for theEuropean Open, which is being played at Ireland's K Club venuefor next year's Ryder Cup.

Winners of the last two PGA events, U.S. Open winnerMichael Campbell of New Zealand and Barclays Classic championPadraig Harrington of Ireland will both be taking part in theEuropean Open along with European Ryder Cup hopefuls PaulMcGinley, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.

American Jim Furyk, who squandered a three-shot lead withfive holes to play at the Barclays, will try to rebound fromhis late collapse on a course that will favor his accuracy andshort game.

Australia's Mark Hensby, who slept in his car in theparking lot at Cog Hill while struggling to earn a regular spoton the PGA Tour, returns to his former residence rated one ofthe favorites after a solid showing at the U.S. Open.