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Tiger Woods not concerned with form

The real reason for what's been holding back Tiger Woods was finally revealed today.

It's the hair. He dyed it blond over the holidays and hasn't won since.

That's all of three tournaments.

"Maybe I need to dye it back,'' said Woods, who might be the last person concerned that it's already February and he still doesn't have a victory in 2001.

His hair color is back to normal. He looks like the same player who won three straight majors and nine out of the 20 PGA Tour events he played last year. The only difference is the record, which is tough to top.

A year ago, Woods came to the Buick Invitational having won six straight PGA Tour events, the longest streak in 52 years. Now, he has gone six straight tour events without winning and everyone wants to know what's happened to him.

"What's happened is that he's still the best player in the world,'' said Davis Love III, who finally broke out of a real slump -- 0-for-63 -- last week at Pebble Beach. "He's in an unenviable position that when he doesn't win he gets more questions.

"I've gotten a lot of questions in the last two years. He's gotten that many in the last two months.''

The "slump'' has two versions.

True, Woods hasn't won on the PGA Tour since Sept. 10 in the Canadian Open, where he hit that 6-iron from 218 yards out of a bunker, over the water and right at a pin that was best left alone.

Woods keeps his own record.

"I guess the Grand Slam doesn't count,'' he said. That was the four-man, 36-hole tournament in Hawaii the week before Thanksgiving when Woods made eagle on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Vijay Singh, then another eagle on the first extra hole to win.

"I guess the European Tour doesn't count,'' said Woods, referring to his three-stroke victory in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand the week after Valderrama in November.

"I haven't won in three tournaments,'' he said. "That's not a slump, not like some of these people think it is. If I can go three tournaments and people call it a slump, then I've actually played some pretty good golf.''

Woods has himself to blame for that.

He raised the expectations with one of the greatest years ever in sports. Along with his nine victories and three straight majors, he never went more than three PGA Tour events without winning, and only three times finished lower than fifth.

"It's not like I'm missing cuts,'' Woods said. "I'm right there. My worst finish has been 13th. That's terrible, isn't it?''

But the one thing Woods has failed to do in three tournaments his year is contend on Sunday. He was six strokes back and never a factor in the Mercedes Championships, and his tie for fifth in Phoenix left him 15 strokes behind, his largest deficit in two years.

And he made three straight bogeys on the front nine of Pebble Beach -- the same nine that Love played in 8-under 28 -- to wash out any thought of another comeback.

Woods admits that his game is not as sharp as it was last year, when just about every facet was nearly flawless.

The only change this week is a new driver from Titleist, a 975EFS that Woods tested earlier this week and plans to use on Thursday. And that's the one area of his game that has been particularly strong.

"I feel like I'm driving the ball better than I did at this time last year,'' he said. "My iron game is not as sharp. Obviously, I'm not making as many putts. My short game feels about the same. I have the same drive, the same anticipation of wanting to go out there and play well and put myself in contention and hopefully win. That hasn't changed.''

Tiger Woods is confident of getting back to winning ways. Allsport.

This would be an appropriate place to do that.

Woods has played the Buick Invitational three times and has never finished worse than a tie for third. He won in 1999 by going 62-65 on the weekend, and erased a seven-stroke deficit in seven holes before Phil Mickelson pulled away for a four-stroke victory.

That ended the streak. Now he is asked whether he can end a "slump.''

"The second you think he's slumping, then he wins by 15 that week,'' Brad Faxon said.

The last time he faced questions along this line was in 1998, when Woods won only once on tour while rebuilding his swing. "I'm not that far off,'' he said repeatedly, and before long he rattled off 16 tour victories in his next 27 starts.

"It's close,'' he said. "I haven't played terrible. I've played actually pretty good. It's just a matter of time.''




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