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Tiger Woods seeks to improve driving

Although fresh from winning his third PGA Tour title of the year, Tiger Woods is under self-imposed pressure to improve his driving accuracy for this week's Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The world number one survived a faltering back nine and a few errant tee shots on his way to a two-stroke triumph at the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina on Sunday.

A red-hot putter helped him seal victory on the demanding Quail Hollow course but Woods knows he will have much less margin for error at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass this week.

"Most of the shots I hit (at the Wachovia) were pretty good, but I did hit a couple wide," the 31-year-old American told reporters after celebrating his 57th PGA Tour win.

"You just can't do that at the Players. The mounding there is so severe.

"I still need to do some work. I've got to get that under control, get that straightened out so that my misses aren't way off line there, still in the fairway. That's the ultimate goal."

The 12-times major champion has enjoyed his 2007 campaign, with one notable exception.

"It's been good, with just one little negative there," Woods said, referring to his tie for second at last month's Masters, the opening major of the season.

Three victories in just six PGA Tour starts this year represents an exceptional strike rate but Woods jested he was not satisfied.

"It's three short of where I wanted to be," he said with a broad grin. "Or three short of my intent, put it that way."

Woods, whose only success on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass came in 2001, is unquestionably the pre-tournament favorite at a venue which traditionally provides a fair test.

However, world number two Jim Furyk believes the Players Championship will be more open than usual following the course renovations implemented since last year.

"I think it favors no one in particular more now than it ever did," he said.

"I disagree a little bit with the argument that it favored no one in the past. But more so than ever now, I don't think it's really going to favor any style of player."

The Stadium Course has been stretched to more than 7,200 yards since Canada's Stephen Ames won last year's title by a commanding six shots.

More significantly, though, a sub-air drainage system has been installed under the greens and the fairways have also been refurbished with a new base of sand to improve drainage.

With the tournament date switched from late March to early May, the stage is set for a Players Championship to unfold in firm and fast-running conditions.

"I'm very excited about the May date just from the fact that the golf course is going to be all Bermuda, it's going to be firm, it's going to be fast," Furyk said.

"And if it rains, it's going to drain better. I think it'll get back to the way it was supposed to be played here and it's going to be a much better golf course."

Widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major, the Players Championship attracts the strongest field of the year and is a highly prized tournament to win.

"It's definitely the number one field and the number one test," said Ireland's Padraig Harrington, runner-up at Sawgrass in 2003 and 2004.

Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, agreed: "It's the strongest field in golf, period."


May 9, 2007

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