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Tiger Woods going for third Memorial title

Greg Norman remembers how he felt when he was young and winning came easy.

He can only imagine how much better it will be for Tiger Woods.

``You've got a kid with a lot of confidence and a game that goes with it,'' Norman said. ``He's going to steamroll anybody until he gets to where he really wants to go, and nobody knows where that is.''

Indeed, where Woods finally ends up in his career is anyone's guess. His immediate future, though, is much more clear.

On Thursday, he starts chasing a third straight win in the Memorial tournament. Two weeks from now, he goes after an unprecedented fifth straight major in the U.S. Open.

And everywhere he plays, he'll be the favorite to win.

``My goal is not to make a cut or just show up and play halfway decent,'' Woods said. ``My goal is to win.''

Norman still has that goal as well. He's won here twice, the last time in 1995. But his game at the age of 46 isn't what it was at 26, and his time may be running out.

Norman hasn't won on the PGA Tour in four years, and while his business empire thrives, his competitive career may be coming to an end.

``You get a little more frustrated and a little more impatient with the golf course and yourself,'' Norman said. ``I still believe I can win because I know how good I can hit the golf ball and how well I'm hitting the golf ball now. With that in mind, I know I have to work on it a little stronger mentally.''

Norman was relaxed and reflective Wednesday, the day his election to the World Golf Hall of Fame was announced. He's clearly at peace with himself, despite some on course disasters that have plagued his career.

But he's yet to show he can compete on a level with Woods, who has won this tournament the last two years and seems intent to do it yet again.

``I really feel like I'm swinging the club the way I know I can,'' Woods said. ``It's kind of fun to be able to step up there and hit shots that I haven't hit in a while.''

In a tournament conceived by Nicklaus to remember the best of golf, Wednesday was a day for reminiscing by Norman about his career and by those who knew Payne Stewart. The tournament honored Stewart in a ceremony on the 18th green, where he lost in 1993 when Paul Azinger dropped a shot from a greenside bunker.

The talk seldom strayed far from Woods, though, who won here last year by taking control with a second-round 63.

There's not many who think he can't do it once again in a limited field missing the likes of Phil Mickelson, Davis Love and David Duval.

Woods didn't win here until Monday last year after play was suspended for a day because of rain. It's a common problem for the Memorial, which has been plagued by rain over the years.

Things don't look much better this year, with the forecast for heavy rain Thursday and Friday and a chance of rain on the weekend.

Woods, who won in Germany two weeks ago in his last time out, took a few days off after his return from overseas before going out to get his swing into major championship shape.

  He's feeling good about his chances, both here and at the U.S. Open in Tulsa, Okla., two weeks from now.

``You have to be realistic. Obviously, you're not going to win every time you tee it up. But that's my goal, and it's disappointing when that doesn't happen,'' Woods said.

Woods, like Nicklaus in his prime, doesn't worry much about who else might be playing in any particular tournament. Still, it was hard not to notice those missing in a tournament that ranks just a notch or two below a major on the scorecards of many players.

Mickelson is taking the week off to avoid playing too much before the Open, while Love is trying to recuperate from back problems so he can play at Southern Hills.

Duval, meanwhile, was at a friend's wedding.

``I don't think that in any way, shape or form that is going to hurt this tournament because it still has a great field and a wonderful track,'' Woods said.

Indeed, the lush Muirfield Village layout designed by Nicklaus a quarter century ago is a main attraction for the players, as is the individual attention that Nicklaus and his tournament operators give to the field.

Woods actually struggled his first two years here, playing the course in 3 over. But in the last two years, he is 34 under, including last year's 19 under that won by 5 shots over Ernie Els and Justin Leonard.

``Obviously, the golf course suits his strengths, but then again I guess any course does,'' Bob Tway said.


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