With the British Open a little more than a week away, defending champion Tiger Woods said he believes his game is rounding into shape nicely in time for the year's third major at Carnoustie Golf Club.
"I'm very pleased at the way I hit the golf ball," Woods told reporters following his tie for sixth place in last weekend's AT&T National at Congressional Country Club. "The entire week I hit the ball really well, made some great strides since the U.S. Open.
"I just didn't make anything this week — just never could get a putt to the hole, and when I did, it usually seemed to kind of fall by the wayside."
Despite his respectable finish Sunday, Woods said the style of golf he played over the weekend really doesn't help much in his preparation for the British Open.
"This is more like a U.S. Open venue than it would be a British Open prep," Woods said. "But having to hit the golf ball in the fairway and place your iron shots, it's like a British Open.
"The only difference is we can't use the ground to get the ball into the flags. Here, you're using the air and lining it and letting it plug."
Unlike past years, Woods said he won't leave his home early in order to get extra preparation at or near the British Open site. Instead, he's opting to spend more time with his wife, Elin, and their newborn child before leaving for the Open, which will be played July 19-22.
Woods added that he'll also meet with his coach, Hank Haney, and "we'll do some grinding and get ready and head on over."
As the tournament host for the AT&T National, Woods said he was pleased with the inaugural event — even though he had to present the championship trophy to fellow competitor K.J. Choi. The tournament was put together in a relatively short time frame of 116 days and returned a PGA Tour stop to the Washington D.C. area.
"When you're out there playing, I'm trying to get a W and I didn't get a W," Woods said. "So that's frustrating in that sense, but this tournament, in general, has been a bigger success than I think any one of us could have imagined.
"To have the support we've gotten from the people here — the fans, the military have come out and have really made this tournament very special — and I think everyone who has been a part of it has really worked hard to make the tournament special."
For several years, Phil Mickelson was famously tagged with the label of "best player to have never won a major." Since Mickelson has collected a pair of victories in majors, the hunt has been on to find a successor.
With his play this season, K.J. Choi might be in the running to inherit the "honor." Choi, who won the AT&T National by three strokes Sunday, has two victories this year to go with five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour.
Choi also has six career victories and has climbed to fourth in the FedExCup standings. The 37-year-old South Korean is 13th in the world golf rankings and has the most PGA Tour wins ever by an Asian-born player.
About all that's needed to complete his resume is an elusive major title.
"Definitely, winning a major is my goal," Choi said in his press conference Sunday. "That's my life goal. My life dream is to become the first Asian to ever have won a major and that's something that I'm going to strive very hard and work at it."
Despite posting his second runner-up finish of the season with a tie for second Sunday at the AT&T National, Steve Stricker remains positive and refuses to acknowledge any feelings of being snake bit by the near misses.
Stricker, the 2006 PGA Tour comeback player of the year, has three career Tour victories, but hasn't won since the 2001 Accenture Match Play Championship. This year, he's been second at both the Wachovia Championship (won by Tiger Woods) and the AT&T National (won by K.J. Choi).
"There have been a couple of guys that have just played better," Stricker said Sunday in his post-round press conference. "It could have been just the other way just as easy, I suppose. But the two guys that won, Tiger and K.J., they played well.
"It's up to me to make the putt, make the birdies or finish it off coming down the stretch and I just haven't done it."
Stricker has played well of late, tying for 13th in last month's U.S. Open. He's also 11th in the FedExCup standings and has climbed to eighth in the American standings for the Presidents Cup.
Possibly the oddest stat of the week: Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Robert Allenby and David Toms are tied for the PGA Tour lead with seven top-10 finishes apiece. However, Woods is the only player in that group to have broken through for a victory.
Furyk has made the cut in 14 of 16 events this season, owns a 69.46 scoring average and has ended in the top 25 a total of 11 times. He also ranks seventh in the FedExCup standings and is No. 2 in the world golf rankings.
Remarkably, Furyk has managed to consistently fare well, despite not always playing some of his best golf.
"I just kept working hard," Furyk said during his final-round AT&T National press conference. "I felt like in some of those weeks where I played poorly, I really wasn't playing that bad. I was just struggling to get the ball in the hole and struggling to score.
"For whatever reason, I really just kept plugging along and trying to believe in myself and trying to stay patient, which is hard."
July 11, 2007
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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