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The Open

Tiger Woods returns to action at Buick Open

Still basking in his British Open triumph, world number one Tiger Woods returns to action this week at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Michigan, with one eye on the U.S. PGA Championship and a possible hat-trick of majors.

Making his first start since his five-shot victory at St Andrews two weeks ago, the $4.6 million Buick Open at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club will be the American's only tune-up ahead of the season's final major at Baltusrol next month.

One tournament, however, should be more than enough preparation for a red-hot Woods, who has two victories -- the Masters and British Open -- two runner-up finishes and a third place in his last seven events.

If his form is not enough to install Woods as hot favourite, then his record at Warwick Hills, where he has finished outside the top-10 only once in six starts, should see few bets against him adding a second Buick title to the one he claimed in 2002.

Big-hitters such as Woods and John Daly have feasted on the tight, tree-lined layout, particularly an inviting closing stretch that includes two-par fives and two drivable par-fours in the final seven holes.

However, driving accuracy and a solid short game will also be vital, with some of the largest greens of any course on PGA Tour providing a welcoming target.

Woods actually stepped back onto the course on Monday, teaming up with John Daly to take on Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson in a made-for-television event "Battle at The Bridges" in California.

Neither Goosen or Mickelson will join Woods at the Buick but Fiji's world number two Vijay Singh will be back to defend the title he lifted last year by one shot over Daly, carding a 23-under-par winning score.

The only two-time winner of the Buick, Singh's victory last year provided the springboard for a magical run that saw him win six of next nine tournaments he entered.

After his second place finish last year and coming off a respectable tie for 15th at the British Open, fan favourite Daly is also likely to fancy his chances in the Motor City, as will 2003 Jim Furyk, who has bettered par at Warwick Hills in his last 25 rounds and never missed a cut.

"It's not a place where power is going to dominate the golf course," Furyk said.

"You can take advantage of some of the shorter holes here and possibly drive the 14th green in dry conditions, but it's still a place where you have to place the ball, keep it in the fairways. The fairways are very tight.

"I think guys that are good with their wedges, short game, guys that are good from 100 yards can really do well here.

"When I'm playing well, this golf course suits my game. That's why I tend to keep coming back."

Next month's PGA championships will also loom large for many players this week with the Buick Open representing the last event that sets the field for the final major of the season taking place in Springfield, New Jersey.


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