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PGA: Stephen Ames coasts to six shot win
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Tiger using Buick Open for PGA tune up

Despite the constant references from others about a slump, Tiger Woods believes his year has been a success.

However, he does not think his season will be ``great'' without a major championship.

``Like in tennis, you don't know what the guys have done in the other events because it's all about the Grand Slam,'' Woods said Wednesday. ``It's the same in our sport.''

The No. 1 golfer in the world is using the Buick Open as a tuneup for the PGA Championship in two weeks, his last chance to win a major this year.

``If I play well here and hopefully win, then that will be plenty of confidence going into the PGA,'' said Woods, who leads the PGA Tour with four victories this year.

Not having a major doesn't seem to affect his popularity either.

At the 16th tee during Wednesday's pro-am at Warwick Hills, a young woman got past the ropes to get up close and personal with Woods, who said he wasn't scared, just surprised.

``She just asked for a photo and she gave me a little hug and a kiss on the cheek,'' he said.

In two weeks, at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York, Woods will look to snap his streak without winning a major at five and to end seven months of questions about why he can't win the big ones like he did when he won an unprecedented seven out of 11.

If he does not win his ninth major at the PGA Championship, Woods will have gone a year without a major championship for the first time since 1998.

Pressure?

``Not any more than I always put on myself,'' he said. ``The key is to always be consistent at major championships. I've been there, I just haven't won yet.''

At the British Open two weeks ago, he was one stroke out of the lead with 11 holes left and would have been in a playoff with Ben Curtis if he had made pars over the final four holes. But Woods had two bogeys down the stretch and finished tied for fourth behind Curtis, who was the 396th-ranked player in the world. Woods tied for 15th at the Maters, and tied for 20th at the U.S. Open.

Woods, the defending Buick Open champion, headlines a field that includes Curtis, U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, Vijay Sing and 49-year-old Peter Jacobsen, who won for the first time since 1995 at last week's Greater Hartford Open.

Curtis took home more than $1 million for winning the British Open -- and more. He has a PGA Tour card for the next five years, and is exempt to the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship for five years and can play the British Open until he is 65.

``It takes pressure off me,'' Curtis said. ``Going into the British, it was a matter of wanting to keep my card. Now that I have it for five years, that's pretty neat.

``I think it will take a load off my shoulders to be able to go out there and just compete without any worries.''

Woods will tee off Thursday morning with his Titleist driver, a 1997 model that he replaced with a Nike driver 18 months ago. He said his old driver felt good on Monday at the ``Battle at the Bridges'' and during Wednesday's pro-am -- even though he's not driving the ball as far as he was.

``I don't hit it as far as my Nike driver, that's for sure,'' Woods said, declining to reveal how much distance off the tee he is sacrificing. ``But it's nice to go back to something that I've had some success with.

``It's interesting because we've come so far in technology since '97, it's amazing. When I rip this thing, it not going quite as far. I thought I hit some pretty good drives out there. They are not quite as far as I thought they would be, but the shape is back to what I'm familiar to seeing again, which is good.''

 

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