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Woods is not looking back

By BOB HARIG, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 13, 2001

TULSA, Okla. -- Perhaps this helps explain his greatness. Tiger Woods will attempt to win his fifth consecutive major championship when the tournament begins Thursday at Southern Hills Country Club. But he doesn't look at it that way.

"I'm not trying to win five. I'm trying to win one. I guess that's the best way I can explain it," Woods said Tuesday after a practice round. "What I've accomplished in the past, that's great, but it doesn't hit any golf shots for me this week. I've still got to go out and execute my shots.

"And that's what I'm trying to do this week, go out there and give myself a chance to win come Sunday. I need to get my game right this week because whatever I've done in the last four majors isn't going to help me hit any shots out there."

Woods, 25, is attempting to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1999 to defend his U.S. Open title. He also is trying to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year for the first time since Jack Nicklaus in 1972.

DOING DOUBLE DUTY: Now that he has made it to the Open, Gary Koch can't help but want to do well. Koch, 48, who qualified for the tournament last week at Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa, also will perform his regular duties as an NBC analyst.

"I like the golf course. It is Bermuda grass fairways, roughs, which I am very familiar with having played down in Florida," Koch said. "I do feel very comfortable playing shots off that grass. The negative, if there is one, is that I haven't played a tremendous amount of competition for a long time. The last Open I played was in 1995. ... I can promise you when I stand on that first tee on Thursday, there's going to be some butterflies jumping around in my stomach. And now it's, can I deal with that or not.

"I'd like to go out and play well, but I'm certainly not going to be disappointed terribly if things don't go quite the way I'd like them to go."

READY TO GO: Bob May has been relatively quiet since nearly stopping Woods' streak at last year's PGA Championship, but he is looking forward to another chance at the Open.

May played at Oklahoma State and is more familiar with Southern Hills than most. His back also is feeling better after taking some two weeks off because of two bulging discs.

"Some of your friends remind you there wouldn't be a Tiger Slam (four straight major championships) if I had made one more putt," said May, who despite shooting three straight 66s wound up in a three-hole playoff, which he lost by a stroke. "It was the greatest moment of my career, even though you'd like to have won."

THE ODDS: Some bookmakers have Woods an even-money favorite to win, the shortest odds ever for a major tournament, they said.

That means bettors wagering on Woods to win would double their money if he wins his fifth consecutive major.

Woods is listed at even money by the Regent Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas and by William Hill in Great Britain. Regent lists Phil Mickelson and David Duval second at 8-1; Hill lists Mickelson second at 20-1.

At the Stardust Race & Sports Book in Las Vegas, Woods is listed as a 7-5 favorite, manager Joe Lupo said.

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