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Tiger Woods all set for Masters

Tiger Woods's relentless march to victory at the WGC-CA Championship will have sounded several warning bells to his rivals for next month's Masters.

Seven days after finishing outside the top 20 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, ending a run of 13 consecutive top-10s worldwide, the world number one hit back with his 56th PGA Tour title.

Woods, never satisfied with the status quo, is continually aiming to improve his swing and pile up more 'W's (wins). Above all, he is fueled by his desire to eclipse Jack Nicklaus as golf's most prolific major champion.

Fellow American Nicklaus claimed 18 professional major championships in his glittering career while the 31-year-old Woods trails with 12.

Few would bet against him clinching a fifth green jacket at the April 5-8 Masters on an Augusta National layout which suits him to the proverbial tee.

Victory at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa on Sunday in his final tournament before the first major of the year gave him the perfect send-off.

"You can't have any better way, getting a 'W' right before you go," Woods told reporters after holding off compatriot Brett Wetterich to win his 13th WGC (World Golf Championships) crown by two shots.

"I'm very excited about the things that I've been able to rectify on Monday and Tuesday, and then obviously applied it to Thursday through Sunday.

"I'm feeling more comfortable with it and looking forward to my practice sessions this week and leading up to Augusta."

Woods had to fix his swing after he faded with a final-round 76 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, finding water on the last two holes to finish in a tie for 22nd place at three over.

His ability to bounce back quickly from adversity is one of several skills which mark him out from his peers.

"I think you have to analyze your performance and where you went wrong," Woods said. "Too many people are afraid to look deep down and look at where you made mistakes.

"That's not always easy to do, to be honest with yourself. That's something my father always instilled in me.

"I made too many mental mistakes, which I never do," he added, referring to a week at Bay Hill that ended with a triple bogey at the last and an ugly back nine of 43.

"Physical mistakes I can handle but, since this is not a reactionary sport, it's just frustrating for me to make a mental mistake.

"You're not going to hit it perfect every day on every shot. You've got to figure out somehow to get it around and piece it together, turn days when you're not feeling well, 73s and 74s into 69s and 68s."

Woods enjoyed a psychological hold over his rivals during his golden run of form from late 1999 to mid-2002 when he won seven majors in 11 starts. Having claimed the final two majors of last year, he appears to enjoy a similar aura of dominance.

"He's just better than us," U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia said after tying for third at Doral on Sunday, four strokes behind Woods. "I just have to figure out how he does it and do something."

Rather than be overawed and demoralized by Woods, Ogilvy prefers to revel in the fact that he is competing in a very special Tiger era.

"It's kind of fun playing right now," the 29-year-old said. "If he's not already, Tiger's getting pretty close to being the best golfer of all time. And it's fun just watching."

Ever optimistic, Ogilvy finds some comfort in Woods's victory rate.

"He only wins 30 percent of the time he tees it up," he explained. "I probably play only 13 or 14 tournaments that he plays in a year, so I've got seven or eight chances when he's not going to win."

The immediate problem for Ogilvy is that the Masters in two weeks' time is unlikely to offer one of those chances with Augusta National specialist Woods in prime form.


March 27, 2007

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