Woods says only the long-hitters can stop him in final major

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods all but ruled out the chances of nine-tenths of the USPGA Championship field here yesterday. But anybody who saw the world No 1 stride through 18 holes of practice at Baltusrol with an air that was thicker with confidence than it has ever been will tell you he was simply being kind to the other 10th.

"You know, this course's length does eliminate a lot of the guys who can't hit the ball long and high," he said, agreeing that as few as 15 of the 156 competitors have the required game to do so. "That's a fact that shows up when you get to courses playing as slow as this one is. It sure did at Augusta, but at the US Open you saw a whole mixture of guys in contention because the fairways were running so fast that anybody could play."

Pinehurst, of course, is the solitary blip on the Woods major calendar so far this year, but as he still managed to finish second to Michael Campbell there with a putting performance that was at best "awful", the 29-year-old will have the honour of teeing it up in tomorrow's first round knowing that a win would herald the finest major-season in golfing history.

"That would be huge, huge," he admitted after his usual dash around the course with the larks. "You know I've won three in a season before [in 2000] but to do it again with a runners-up in the other ... yeah that would be pretty cool. But there's a long way to go before that. A long, long way."

Indeed, some 7,400 yards around a lay-out he termed as "a very fair test", despite the hellish bluegrass rough that the PGA has mercilessly raked towards the tees to make the professionals' task even more difficult in trying to get any control at all. "It's old school here," he said, "everything is right in front of you. But you really do have to drive the ball well."

Colin Montgomerie will say "amen" to that, although Woods believes the three swollen fingers the Scot will again rest today after playing just the one practice round yesterday might well scupper his hopes. "Look, the last thing you want to have when the rough is this high is a hand injury," he said, almost scratching off another would-be challenger in the process.

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