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Tiger Woods favourite to win Players again

Tiger Woods isn't ready to bestow "major" status on the Players Championship on the eve of the 30th edition of the event. As a matter of fact, he gives that idea precious little consideration.

The idea of winning what is widely regarded as golf's fifth major gets a great deal more consideration from Mr. Major, however. After getting off to an inauspicious beginning his first two years on the Stadium Course (ties for 31st and 35th), Woods has finished no worse than a tie for 14th.

Regardless of that, however, Woods is the absolute, odds-on favorite going into today's first round. Why?

He's won three of his last four PGA Tour events.

His final-round scoring average is 67, best on Tour.

In his first three stroke-play events of the season, he's, um, 41 under par.

He hasn't finished worse than a tie for 7th since British Open.

The second and third-ranked players in the world, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, are not here. Els came up with a wrist injury after working out on a heavy bag a few weeks ago and Mickelson is home after the birth of he and his wife Amy's third child.
"I think I'm feeling a little bit better," said Woods, his tongue planted firmly in cheek. "I'm out there trying to crack an egg. I'm shooting a halfway decent score. I am pleased with the way I'm playing and I need to get feeling a little bit stronger and better and I should be all right."

Yeah, not too bad for a guy coming off offseason knee surgery and a guy who's playing so well that he's starting to put up even better numbers than he posted in 2000, the year he won nine tournaments.

"What he does never ceases to amaze me," said David Toms, who pushed Woods the whole way before falling in the Match Play Championship last month. "It seems like he does whatever he has to do to get it done. Is him winning all the time a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know. I think some way we need to bring it all back to where more players have a chance to win, maybe set up the golf courses a little bit different so it brings everybody into the mix.

"Now I think some of the courses we play, obviously there are a handful of guys who are going to have a better chance than others, and I think we can make it to where everybody has a chance when the week starts."

Maybe that's the case, maybe it's not. Last week at Bay Hill, Woods went into the final round with a five-shot lead and a nasty case of food poisoning. Despite all of that and a pouring rain, Woods ran away and hid from the field, winning by 11.

It was the 30th time he's led after 54 holes in his career. He's won 28 of those.

"Very ominous last week, very ominous," said Colin Montgomerie, when asked to characterize what Woods accomplished on Arnold Palmer's layout in Orlando. "This course is slightly different, I believe. This one is more exacting than some we play and I'm interested to see how he does.

"He's by far the best player we've ever played against and by far the best player, in my view, who's ever played the game, so we're very fortunate to have the best athlete in the world to play golf right now. It's the first time it's ever happened, good for us all."

Looking for other omens? How about this one?

After Woods' first three wins at Bay Hill, he finished second, first and a tie for 14th at the Players Championship.


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