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Woods heads to Sawgrass in top form

Tiger Woods was down the same road a year ago.

En route to winning the U.S. Masters, the world No. 1 was without a victory in 2001 until the Bay Hill Invitational. He then won The Players Championship and was in top form for Augusta.

Until Sunday, Woods was without a victory this year, but he managed to win at Bay Hill, Florida, for the third consecutive year and is now gearing up for Augusta again.

Even the manner in which he claimed his 30th U.S. PGA Tour title resembled last year, holding off a challenge from world number two Phil Mickelson.

Now, though, Woods is on the second leg of his journey, looking to become the first player to successfully defend at The Players Championship at the TPC at Sawgrass this week.

"Making the run to our first major of the year is exciting," Woods said last week. "Basically we all say that once we get to Florida is when we really start focusing on getting ready for The Players Championship and the Masters."

The Players Championship has been dubbed the unofficial fifth major by the tour and, by the look of this week's field, it would be hard to argue. The top 20 players in the world have all entered.

Included in the field is British Open champion David Duval, who was making a move on the leaders at Bay Hill before a quadruple nine at the par-five 16th on Sunday wrecked his chances.

"I feel good now," said Duval about his game at Bay Hill. "What I've done in the last three weeks with my golf game and my putting, everything really top to bottom. I feel great about what I did this week.

"I'm really looking forward to this next run and that's what I have really been trying to prepare for."

Duval's win at the 1999 Players Championship was the finest to that point in his career. He has generally fared well in the event with four top-25 finishes in the last five years.

Mickelson captured the lead early on the back nine at Bay Hill before he bogeyed four of the last five holes to finish tied for third.

"I'm playing well and I'm looking forward to next week's Players (Championship)," said the left-hander on Sunday.

"That's a tournament that I would very much like to play well in. I haven't played as well as I could in the past, and so I'd like to play well there."


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