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RYDER CUP NOTES

Woods Must Grin and Bear Criticism

September 15, 2004|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Having to defend his play week after week is something Tiger Woods has grown accustomed to this year, even though he doesn't enjoy it.

"Annoying," he said Tuesday.

Woods is winless in his last 10 majors, has won only once this year, and lost his No. 1 ranking -- for the first time since 1999 -- to Vijay Singh, who has won seven times. And this week, Woods has had to defend his 5-8-2 Ryder Cup record.

"I'm sure all you guys probably know what Jack Nicklaus' record is in the Ryder Cup, right? Anybody? No? How many majors did he win?

Eighteen, Woods heard.

"Oh, really?"

It was a good point, with Nicklaus' 17-8-3 Ryder Cup record no match in importance for his 18 major titles.

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One significant change at Oakland Hills might provide some spectacular moments -- the 356-yard sixth hole could be played at only 300 yards.

That could be interesting in alternate shot, if the alternate tee is used and the players decide to try to drive the green.

"There's no reason not to go for it," Bernhard Langer said. "Even if you can't get it there, you're still going to go for it. Meaning, if you end up 20 yards short, it's an easier chip than being down the hill 100 yards away."

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Hal Sutton said he would use all 12 of his players Friday for the best-ball and alternate-shot matches, which means four players will play both sessions. That means Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and either David Toms or Jim Furyk probably will be busy.

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Sutton said he was surprised that Mickelson switched clubs, from Titleist to Callaway, two weeks ago. Mickelson is using a Callaway driver, ball and two fairway woods.

"Surprised, yes, but not upset about it," Sutton said. "Any time a great player like that makes a shift in equipment, I think everybody is surprised."

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