One in the eye for Woods on long fourth

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods yesterday was neither chased by a bear nor attacked by an autograph hunter, but instead fell foul of the longest par-four hole in the history of the USPGA Championship in practice at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

The 18th hole on the Highland Course has been stretched to 490 yards, normally the length of a par-five. Woods hit a driver off the tee and though he was able to carry the pond in front of the green with a three-iron, he twice put approach shots into the water on the right.

Woods, winner for the last two years, praised the venue for the 83rd USPGA as a "straightforward course with no tricks where you can be aggressive with the driver." But the world No 1 criticised the changes that are currently being made at Augusta National, home of the Masters.

All but three of the par-fours have been altered with 300 yards added to the length of the course. In particular, the 18th hole, which plays steeply up hill, has been extended by 60 yards. "Every year there is always something a little different at Augusta as they have adapted to the modern technology," said the double Masters champion. "But I don't agree with making holes 60 yards longer. The [par-five] 13th was a great risk-reward hole where you could make three or seven based on whether you can draw the ball.

"Now a lot of guys will have to lay up and there will be a lot less threes and sevens but more fours and fives. "

After recent thunderstorms here in Georgia, the course is soft and playing even longer than the yardage of 7,213 suggests. Even Vijay Singh needed a three-wood for his second at the 18th. "They've set this course up perfectly for Tiger," said Retief Goosen, the US Open champion. "They think they are making it difficult for Tiger, but it isn't.

"He's smiling. He knows he has a big advantage over everybody. All the trouble is out there about 280 yards and he flies it about 310." Goosen will play alongside Woods and Open champion David Duval tomorrow and Friday in the traditional grouping of the season's major winners.

Woods was hit in the mouth by an autograph hunter's book on Monday. "It was just an excited fan, a little kid." Woods said. "I'm still here." He said the same about a bear that prowled near where Tiger and Mark O'Meara were fishing on a recent rip to Alaska. Woods has not played since finishing 25th in the Open and has not practised much either, preferring to relax before an intense seven weeks up to the Ryder Cup at The Belfry next month. "I hope the atmosphere is not like Brookline," he said, "but then that is dependent on the sale of a lot of people's favourite beverages.

"Bipartisanship is fine but not when you get on guys personally. I played against Colin Montgomerie and some of the things said to him were downright wrong. In our sport, you just don't do that. In general, you just don't do it."

* The Walker Cup player Luke Donald is to become a stablemate of Tiger Woods and Colin Montgomerie. Like his Cup partner Nick Dougherty, Donald has joined Mark McCormack's International Management Group.

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