Tiger Woods ready to battle big hitters in Orlando

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods fondly remembers the time when only John Daly was a bigger hitter than him.

Now, though, Woods reckons he will be "the Corey Pavin of my group" when the Arnold Palmer Invitational starts today at Bay Hill in Orlando.

The six-time champion is paired in the opening two rounds with Dustin Johnson and last week's winner Gary Woodland.

Johnson ranks second to Bubba Watson on this season's statistics with an average of 311.8 yards per drive, while new kid on the block Woodland is eighth at 299.5 yards.

Woods is not that far behind. He averages 297.9, but he joked: "I'll just kind of put it out there in play and put it up on the green and try and make putts.

"Those guys will be bombing it way out there past me. It's a new game now. The game has really changed - it's gotten long.

"The next two days is a perfect example of where the game has changed. You've got two guys who used to play basketball now playing golf and that's what I've been alluding to all these years.

"We are finally going to get athletes. Guys who can dunk. Guys could have played baseball or could have played football, but they are playing golf instead.

"I don't have the gears that those guys do. When I hit it solid and they hit it solid obviously they are going to be longer.

"I'm not as tall as they are, certainly not as big."

What ought to be worrying more, however, is not how far he hits it, but how straight - and how he fares on the greens.

His driving accuracy of 45.5% of fairways hit puts him 191st on the PGA Tour and he is just outside the top 100 in putting.

With figures like that it is no wonder the world number five has gone 16 months without a victory, but he believes that by remembering his younger days he will be more effective with his putter again.

"I went back to all of my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on," he said yesterday on the eve of his last event before The Masters in a fortnight.

"And that's when I felt that my stroke started becoming more sound, more solid, my speed became better.

"It feels natural, because I've done it for so long. I just got away from it and now I'm going back to it.

"I don't know what that dude saw in my game, but he really knew putting and he knew my stroke. My dad really knew my stroke.

"I miss him for a lot more reasons than just the putting, but as far as bouncing ideas off of him and what I was feeling and what he would say, I do miss that certainly."