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A change for Tiger Woods in major pursuit

Tiger Woods usually does not like playing a tournament the week before a major championship, but US PGA scheduling changes have the world number one making back-to-back title defenses starting here on Thursday.

Woods will defend his crown at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational this week, then try for his second victory in a row at the PGA Championship, the year's last major which will be played in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The 12-time major champion, whose goal is to break Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major titles, has won the WGC event at Firestone Country Club five times in eight years and captured the PGA Championship three times.

"The PGA Championship is the only one I've ever played the week prior," Woods said. "I played the Buick Open I think two times, I believe in 1999 and 2000, and did all right those two years, I think."

Woods, 31, won both those years and again last year and enhanced his chances of taking next week's major by flying to Southern Hills in Tulsa for a practice round. Having a favourite course as a major tuneup event helps too.

"It's a nice way to prepare for next week being such a demanding golf course and basically the same field. We're just playing back-to-back weeks. It helps. You get to see where your game is at going into the last major of the year."

Woods has been denied this year at majors, with titles going to a trio of first-time major winners - Zach Johnson at the Masters, Argentina's Angel Cabrera at the US Open and Irishman Padraig Harrington at last month's British Open.

"You never want to be shut out. You never want to have a year where you don't win a major championship," Woods said.

"This year I've come close in two and it just didn't happen. I've been in this situation before. The PGA Championship is also one of the toughest championships, especially now at Southern Hills. It'll be a really fun test."

Woods' first child, daughter Sam Alexis, was born in June. Last month, Woods hosted a successful PGA tournament in Washington. The off-course success has helped ease the loss of his father Earl to cancer last year.

"Last year all the success I had on the golf course, it still felt like a failure of a year because of what happened off the golf course and this year what's happening off the golf course has made this year a huge success," Woods said.

"It's a polar 180. No matter what I did on the golf course last year it just never felt right, and this year no matter what I do on the golf course, it just feels right."


August 2, 2007

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