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Tiger Woods optimistic heading to Sawgrass

Tiger Woods is in upbeat mood for this week's Players' Championship at Sawgrass in Florida, with two victories in his last five starts and a new three-wood in his bag.

The 29-year-old American won the Buick Invitational by three shots in January and, helped by his new club, briefly regained the world number one ranking from Vijay Singh earlier this month with a one-stroke victory at the Doral Open.

"I love my new Nike T60 three-wood," Woods said in his monthly newsletter. "I had just started working with it before Doral and put it in the bag on the Tuesday of the tournament.

"All of a sudden, I started hitting this club a lot further and straighter. So I said, what the heck with it, I'll go with it.

"In the tournament, I had a couple situations where I really needed it and I couldn't believe how far I was hitting it," added Woods, who lies third in the 2005 PGA Tour's driving distance category with an average of 305 yards.

"I probably get an extra 10 to 12 yards out of it, which is very significant. It's exciting to be able to have that arsenal in the bag.

"The trajectory is the same, but it just goes further because it's a lighter shaft and the face is a little different. Technology."

Driving the ball further than anyone else in the field, Woods clinched the 42nd PGA Tour title of his career at the Doral after bettering third-round leader Phil Mickelson in a gripping duel.

Trailing U.S. Masters champion Mickelson by two shots going into the last day, he charged to victory with a six-under-par 66 that included a decisive 28-foot birdie putt at the 17th.

"I had a tense battle with Phil and was somehow able to pull it out down the stretch," said eight-times major winner Woods. "I live for those moments.

"That's exactly why you practise, to be in that position and try to handle the situation.

"You're definitely nervous. If you're not nervous, you're not alive. The day I lose that nervousness is the day I quit.

"It's about handling your nerves and channelling it so that you're able to perform at a high level. That's what's exciting."

Although Woods had to settle for a share of 23rd at last week's Bay Hill Invitational after battling to a level-par 72 in the final round, he is confident he can bounce back at Sawgrass.

"It was just one of those weeks at Bay Hill," he said. "It happens. I hit the ball well in spurts. I just didn't hit it well consistently.

"I know how to fix it. For instance, the last hole, I wasn't quite feeling all that comfortable, but I knew what I needed to do and I made two of the best swings I made all day, so that's very encouraging.

"And I'm always excited about the Players'," added Woods, who won the title in 2001 after finishing second the year before. "It's probably the best field we have assembled all year, and it's a big week for all of us."

The Players' Championship, widely regarded as the sport's 'fifth major', starts on Thursday at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass.


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