July 26, 2005

Woods clicks into gear heading to Buick Open

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Still basking in his British Open
triumph, world number one Tiger Woods returns to action this
week at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Michigan, with one eye
on the U.S. PGA Championship and a possible hat-trick of

Making his first start since his five-shot victory at St
Andrews two weeks ago, the $4.6 million Buick Open at the
Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club will be the American's only
tune-up ahead of the season's final major at Baltusrol next

One tournament, however, should be more than enough
preparation for a red-hot Woods, who has two victories -- the
Masters and British Open -- two runner-up finishes and a third
place in his last seven events.

If his form is not enough to install Woods as hot favorite,
then his record at Warwick Hills, where he has finished outside
the top-10 only once in six starts, should see few bets against
him adding a second Buick title to the one he claimed in 2002.

Big-hitters such as Woods and John Daly have feasted on the
tight, tree-lined layout, particularly an inviting closing
stretch that includes two-par fives and two drivable par-fours
in the final seven holes.

However, driving accuracy and a solid short game will also
be vital, with some of the largest greens of any course on PGA
Tour providing a welcoming target.

Woods actually stepped back onto the course on Monday,
teaming up with John Daly to take on Retief Goosen and Phil
Mickelson in a made-for-television event "Battle at The
Bridges" in California.

Neither Goosen or Mickelson will join Woods at the Buick
but Fiji's world number two Vijay Singh will be back to defend
the title he lifted last year by one shot over Daly, carding a
23-under-par winning score.

The only two-time winner of the Buick, Singh's victory last
year provided the springboard for a magical run that saw him
win six of next nine tournaments he entered.


After his second place finish last year and coming off a
respectable tie for 15th at the British Open, fan favorite Daly
is also likely to fancy his chances in the Motor City, as will
2003 Jim Furyk, who has bettered par at Warwick Hills in his
last 25 rounds and never missed a cut.

"It's not a place where power is going to dominate the golf
course," Furyk said.

"You can take advantage of some of the shorter holes here
and possibly drive the 14th green in dry conditions, but it's
still a place where you have to place the ball, keep it in the
fairways. The fairways are very tight.

"I think guys that are good with their wedges, short game,
guys that are good from 100 yards can really do well here.

"When I'm playing well, this golf course suits my game.
That's why I tend to keep coming back."

Next month's PGA championships will also loom large for
many players this week with the Buick Open representing the
last event that sets the field for the final major of the
season taking place in Springfield, New Jersey.