Golf: A 'man-sized' challenge for Tiger

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The Independent Online
If Tiger Woods thought Congressional and Royal Troon were tough golf courses, he also knows Winged Foot, in Westchester County outside New York City, is no push-over. While Woods, whose performances in the US Open and the Open showed he was not going to win quite every major going, had not seen either of the venues for those two majors before, he does have a store of local knowledge for the site of the 79th US PGA.

Butch Harmon, Woods' coach and one of four brothers who are all golf pros, is the son of Claude, the 1948 US Masters champion and from 1947 to 1977 the club professional at Winged Foot. Butch played the course regularly as a youngster and has recently given the Masters champion a couple of guided tours of the West Course. Following the outings, Woods changed his plan before the other majors of the year of resting up by playing this week in the Buick Open in Michigan.

Despite the Tiger's apparent "failure" in the last two majors, the mania surrounding the phenomenon shows no signs of abating. At Michigan, because of his presence, there were twice as many requests for media credentials and a ban was put on photographers and reporters going inside the ropes around the teeing grounds as huge crowds strained for a glimpse of the legend.

The pressure is still on, then. A win for the 21-year-old would make him the first golfer to win two majors in his first year as a professional. To do so he has to tackle a course of 6,987 yards and a par of 70, with 10 par-fours over 400 yards. When the club was founded in 1921, the members instructed the noted course architect AW Tillinghast to give them "a man- sized course".

The course became one of his most renowned and exemplified his hypothesis that "a controlled shot to a closely guarded green is the surest test of any man's golf". Four US Opens have been played at Winged Foot, Bobby Jones winning in 1929 and Hale Irwin in 1974, when the setup was one of the most devilish ever seen and the winning score was seven over par. In 1984 Fuzzy Zoeller beat Greg Norman in a play-off. Given that the course is not named Winged Fin, the Tiger may have more luck than the Shark.