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World's best line up at Firestone

A post-major let-down will be a hurdle facing U.S. PGA champion Phil Mickelson and the rest of the world's top golfers when they clash for the second time in two weeks at the WGC-NEC Invitational starting on Thursday.

Coming on the heels of the 87th U.S. PGA Championship, 49 of the leading 50 ranked players have made the short trip from Baltusrol in New Jersey to the Firestone Golf Club for the second of four World Golf Championship (WGC) events.

Only world number three Ernie Els will not be in Ohio for the $7.5 million tournament, the South African sidelined for the rest of the season after injuring his knee in a boating accident.

After a week spent in gruelling conditions at the year's final major, Tiger Woods and company must gear up for another showdown on Firestone's famed par-70, 7,360-yard South Course created by Bert Way in 1929 and redesigned by Robert Trent Jones in 1960.

Let-downs have never been a problem for Woods, who claimed three consecutive wins here from 1999.

Woods also finished in a tie for second last year behind winner Stewart Cink and the world number one does not expect a dip in form after his joint fourth-place effort at Baltusrol.

"I think a lot of it is confidence," said Woods, who has four wins this season including victories at the U.S. Masters and British Open.

"If you're playing well you feel very confident in what you're doing and you have so many positive experiences the week of a major, and the very next week, it's...why not continue this?," he told reporters.

"There's no reason why it can't continue. So far in my career that's how it's worked out.

"This is a big event. Obviously not a major championship but this is a World Golf Championship and the best players in the world are coming here."

Mickelson will also be in confident mood after capturing his second major in a dramatic finale.

The bigger question mark will be how much the left-hander has in his tank.

Mickelson has had little time to savour his victory after bad weather forced the year's final major into a Monday finish that concluded with a one-shot victory over Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and Australian Steve Elkington.

"I think it was one of the most stressful tournaments for me because I was in the lead or tied every night," said Mickelson.

"There was an extra night thrown in there for good measure.

"The way the week went it was a fun week but it was a very stressful week, and again, having the lead after each night just added to the stress."

Cink's best results came early in the season, topped by a fifth-place at the WGC Match Play in Carlsbad, California.

Last year the American opened with a course record 63 before cruising past Woods and South African Rory Sabbatini.

David Toms, winner of the WGC Match Play, will be happy to put a disappointing majors campaign behind him.

He missed the cut at the U.S. Masters, was disqualified from the British Open and finished 15th at the U.S. Open.

But a tie for 10th at the U.S. PGA will provide Toms with a boost as he looks for a WGC double.

 

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