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Tiger and TPC of Boston centre of attention

The focus of this week's Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC of Boston will be divided between all things Tiger Woods and the fate of the tournament in Norton beyond this year.

Extensive changes were made to the 2-year-old course after player input a year ago. Seth Waugh, CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, said he would like the tournament to stay in Norton for at least the two years remaining on a four-year contract with the PGA Tour, but he will wait until he sees how the course is received by the 156-player field.

The quality of the field in the $5 million event, which starts tomorrow and runs through Labor Day, contains the most important component the tour can offer - Woods. He hasn't added to his eight major championships in the last 10 tries, dating back to the 2002 U.S. Open.

His 264-week hold on the No. 1 ranking in the world is in jeopardy this weekend with second-ranked Vijay Singh also in the field. Woods' edge is narrowing. He is leading in the world rankings, 12.64 to 11.82, after Singh won the PGA Championship Aug. 15. Woods has won just a single tournament this year, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Feb. 29.

Yet it's still Woods the customers pay to see. He and John Daly, who is also entered in the tournament, are the clear favorites on tour along with Phil Mickelson, who isn't playing in Norton this week.

Besides Woods and Singh, Jim Furyk (ninth) and defending champ Adam Scott (10th) are also ranked in the top 10. Woods, Furyk and David Toms (ranked 19th) are in the field and on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

A win this week would enhance a remarkable New England record for Woods, who won the 1992 U.S. Junior Championship at Wollaston Golf Club in Milton, the 1995 U.S. Amateur Championship at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island and was part of the 1999 U.S. Ryder Cup team which staged a miracle comeback in Sunday singles at The Country Club in Brookline.

Tournament director Jay Monahan was confident he and his staff can build on what they presented in the first event last year.

``Having a year behind you, you can see and learn from every single move. Now I think we're in a really good spot in terms of our preparation,'' Monahan said. ``The golf course itself looks like it has matured five years over the last year. I was out with Brad (Faxon), Billy (Andrade) and Brett Quigley recently.

``I was just kind of watching them as they were playing and seeing how they reacted to the course changes without me piping in and telling them before they played the hole. The response that they've had and a few other guys who've been here has been very positive. They feel like this is a fairer test and that we've improved the playability of the course and the changes make sense. And they, too, feel like the golf course has matured a lot over the last year. They've been very complimentary.''

Monahan said the philosophy behind the changes was to improve the playability, making certain that there was more diversity for pin placements on the greens by removing some of the contours.

Some of the fairway basins in low-lying areas caused balls to gather in the same area and also resulted in awkward bounces on tee shots that hit fairways. It created more than an acceptable number of divots. Flattening out some of the fairways enhanced their aesthetics and eliminated much of the divot concern.

``Look at the job the club has done. They've done everything they can possibly do. Look at the job Tom (Brodeur, superintendent) and his staff has done in all the work late last fall and early this spring. And (general manager) Jim O'Mara has done a wonderful job,'' Monahan said.

``The club is completely prepared. We've made some operational changes that will make for an even better event. We've moved some of our concessions areas out of places that were highly congested to reduce some of the congestion and traffic flow.''

Holes 6, 9 and 14 have been significantly changed and the changes to 11 and 16 - two par 3s - were also significant.

``(Before) when you looked at the greens from the tee (on those par 3s), they were sloping away from you. The fronts of both greens have been brought down so the players can see the entire putting surface and the greens can hold the incoming shots better than last year,'' Monahan said.

Parking will be at the nearby Tweeter Center this year rather than at Foxboro's Gillette Stadium.

``I think it's a significant improvement for any of our fans coming here. We have parking right next door with a shuttle to the Polaroid facility and right onto the grounds. We've eliminated a lengthy transfer that we had from Gillette Stadium last year. Every area of the setup has been looked at,'' said Monahan.

The week kicked off Monday with a fund-raising pro-am event with 18 Red Sox players, coaches and legends and 18 PGA Tour pros. Practice rounds were the last two days and the regular pro-am is today.

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