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Tiger Woods the hot favourite at Doral

Holder Tiger Woods goes into this week's WGC-CA Championship as red-hot favourite to win his second tournament of the year and 13th WGC title.

Although the world number one faded with a 76 in the final round of last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill he has made a habit of rising to the occasion in the biggest events.

Woods, who clinched his 55th PGA Tour title at the Buick Invitational in January, romped to victory by eight shots last October when this tournament was played as the WGC-American Express Championship at The Grove in Hertfordshire, England.

That was his fifth success in the elite-field event and the change in venue to the Doral Golf Resort & Spa would appear to play even further into his hands.

Woods has tamed the infamous Blue Monster twice in the last two years, holding off Phil Mickelson to claim the 2005 Doral Championship by a shot and winning last year by a stroke from fellow American David Toms and Colombia's Camilo Villegas.

Doral's par-72 Blue Course, which measures a daunting 7,266 yards, favours the bigger hitters but is also renowned for offering more than its fair share of birdies.

"It's a wonderful golf course but, any time you get a golf course that allows a bunch of birdies, it allows more guys to come into the tournament with a chance to win," Woods told reporters.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who tied for 26th last year at Doral, agreed.

"It's a very exciting golf course," the Irishman said before playing his first practice round of the week here on Tuesday.

"I think this is a good golf course for this type of event. There is a good bit of trouble out there but some good scores can still be made, as we have seen in the past."

Woods, 44 under par in his last two appearances at the event, set a tournament record with a 72-hole aggregate of 24-under 264 in 2005 after outduelling Mickelson in an epic tussle with a closing 66.

"The thing that made it special was that we both played well," Woods recalled. "Win or lose, we both played well."

The second World Golf Championships (WGC) event of the year, the $8 million CA Championship has a limited field of 73 with no halfway cut and $1.35 million going to the winner.

"With a strong but small field here, these are very pleasant weeks to play for all of the guys," said Britain's David Howell, who tied for 12th at Doral last year and shared 13th place at The Grove in October.

"I have had a good pretty good run in them over the last three or four years and I'm looking forward to this week," added the Englishman, who came third at the 2004 American Express Championship and tied for sixth the following year.

Forty-nine of the world's top 50 are competing this week, following the late withdrawal on Tuesday of 31st-ranked Briton Justin Rose because of a back problem.

Woods, who sealed victory at The Grove with successive 67s over the weekend, clinched the title in its inaugural year in 1999 and again in 2002, 2003 and 2005.

The event's only other winners were Canada's Mike Weir, in 2000 at Valderrama in Spain, and South Africa's Ernie Els, in 2004 at Mount Juliet in Ireland. The tournament was not held in 2001.


March 21, 2007

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