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Players not concerned by Tiger Woods absence

Although the absence of Tiger Woods from this week’s Players Championship will be severely felt by the fans, his rivals at Sawgrass say their tournament preparations have been totally unaffected.

“It wasn’t a topic of conversation in the round of golf that we played today,” defending champion and American world number two Phil Mickelson told reporters on Tuesday.

Seventh-ranked Jim Furyk said: “I don’t think we look at this event and say, ‘He’s not here, now I have a better chance of winning.’

“You worry about yourself and your own game and getting yourself ready. I’m not really looking at the field.

“I’m thinking about what the golf course plays like and what I will have to do to get my game in shape to play this golf course. That’s kind of the same every week.”

World number one Woods, tournament champion in 2001, is still recovering after undergoing knee surgery and may not return to the PGA Tour until next month’s U.S. Open.

However, his absence from the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass will certainly be reflected in this week’s television ratings.

“The best player in the world, he creates a buzz, a stir (when he plays),” Furyk added. “There will be less people and media around and it will be tougher for the (television) producer to figure out who he’s going to follow.

“Him being here or not being here doesn’t really affect the rest of us or how we prepare, but it affects on a broader scale, television, how our viewers and fans look at the golf tournament because they want to see Tiger in the field.”

British Open champion Padraig Harrington agreed Woods’s absence had no bearing on his own tournament build-up.

“It doesn’t change my approach,” the Irishman said during preparation for Thursday’s opening round. “I’ve got to play my own game.

“If it comes down to it on Sunday and you’re playing the 18th hole and you’re a shot behind or a shot ahead, it doesn’t really make any difference who’s on the other side of the tee.

“It’s going to be just as hard to beat that player as anybody else because if they’re there, they’re probably playing the best golf of their life.”

For three-times major winner Mickelson, the presence of Woods rather than his absence is always the telling factor.

“When he’s in the field, certainly that’s the first thing you look at on the scoreboard, on the leaderboard, is what did Tiger shoot, where does he stand,” the left-hander said.

“That’s going to obviously be different when he’s not in the field. You don’t have that thought.”

May 7, 2008


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