Woods plays 'ugly' as Germans go for distance

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The Independent Online

If Tiger Woods was concerned about how his trousers would go down on his return to Germany the world No 1 was not letting it show. Woods arrived for the pro-am prior to the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open wearing a pair of slate grey slacks similar to the offending article from last year's tournament. At his victory press conference, Woods was assaulted by the local fashion police. "Why do you wear such ugly trousers?" a woman asked.

"I guess we have different styles," came the bewildered reply. However, his attire went uncommented on at the pre-tournament interview. He was asked, however, about one of his rare runner-up finishes.

After winning the World Sportsman of the Year Award for 1999 and 2000, Woods was edged out at the glitzy ceremony in Monte Carlo earlier this week. Apparently the only driver better than Tiger is Michael Schumacher. "I think he deserved it. Congratulations," said Woods. "He had an absolutely fantastic year and he deserved to win." Part of the deal for Woods playing in the tournament – this is his fourth consecutive appearance – is the use of a Maserati for the week. It does not quite explain his presence on an industrial estate surrounded by fields of asparagus, but there are probably $2m (£1.4m) of other reasons as well.

One of his rituals is to be paired with Boris Becker in the pro-am. "It's neat for me as a sports fan not only to play with Boris, but have him tell me stories about him competing and the things he went through. His swing is actually pretty good. "

Woods has won the event on the two occasions it has been played at St Leon-Rot. Ten behind Michael Campbell at halfway last year, Tiger beat the Kiwi by four after holing a seven-iron for an eagle in the final round. The event usually alternates between here, the headquarters of the computer firm SAP, and Gut Kaden in Hamburg, where the other sponsors, Deutsche Bank, are based. Lee Westwood held off Woods at Gut Kaden in 2000, but that course is still being rebuilt.

At St Leon-Rot they have the luxury of a 36-hole complex. While the first and the 18th holes remain the same, the middle 16 have been taken from the lay-out designed by Dave Thomas, which opened 18 months ago. It is a slightly more drastic approach than the stretching of Augusta National, but Woods showed by winning the Masters for the third time last month that he is even more determined when a venue tries to upgrade itself.

"The course is a lot different to the one we used to play and definitely more difficult," Woods said of the 7,255-yard lay-out. "It's much longer but the fairways are narrower and the rough's up this year." While the extra length will suit John Daly, who has stayed on after finishing ninth at The Belfry, the accuracy required favours Woods.

The event starts today and finishes on Monday which is a bank holiday here. Darren Clarke missed the pro-am to have treatment after injuring his leg on a fishing trip while Colin Montgomerie pulled out after 11 holes as a precaution after a back twinge.

After a three-week break following Augusta, Woods was third in last week's Byron Nelson Classic, with 65s on the second and fourth days. As for a potential Grand Slam, Woods said: "Just winning the Masters doesn't guarantee they hand you over a Grand Slam. You have to take it one at a time, prepare properly and peak at the right time. I've done four in a row and I hope I can do it again in a calendar year, but it was never an ambition of mine."

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