By BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 15, 2001
DULUTH, Ga. -- If it were any other player, four tournaments in a row outside of the top 10 would not even register. But because it is Tiger Woods, something must be wrong.
Woods didn't exactly say Tuesday he has conquered the swing problems that caused him to finish outside of the top 10 in four consecutive tournaments for the first time in four years. But he doesn't sound like a man ready to concede the PGA Championship, either.
"It's not like I've played so bad that I've gone off the map," said Woods, the two-time defending champ who begins his defense Thursday at Atlanta Athletic Club.
"I was just a little off this summer and when you're playing the courses that I've played, I usually tend to play the harder tournaments and the harder golf courses. And when you are a little bit off, it is going to show, and I really wasn't swinging quite as well.
"I did in spurts, where I would play, five, six, seven holes and never miss a shot. Then I'd go off and play two or three bad ones and couldn't find it. Playing tough courses, you cannot afford to play that way. You need to play consistent, plod your way along, and I have not been able to play that way."
MAY DAY: The man who nearly denied Woods at last year's PGA Championship has been quiet in 2001. Bob May, who shot a final-round 66 at Valhalla Golf Club before falling by a shot to Woods in a three-hole playoff, has been bothered by two bulging discs in his back that knocked him out for two months.
May has played in 19 tournaments this year, his best finish 15th at the International two weeks ago. He is 87th on the PGA Tour money list.
"I think it's a competitive thing," May said. "I think I'm back now. I just need to get a couple of good tournaments."
May was injured in February at the Bob Hope Classic. He noticed something after hitting a tee shot, then the next day could barely move. After having tests performed, May took two months off.
But nobody forgot about his performance at the PGA, where May didn't make a final-round bogey, shot 31 on the back nine and shot three consecutive 66s to take Woods to the brink.
"When I watch it on video, I realize what a lot of people said, how good the golf was between the two of us," May said.
TEE FOR TWO: For the first time in a men's major championship, players will tee off the front and back nine, perhaps to try to speed up play. Rounds were taking as long as six hours last year at Valhalla.
"It is a move in the right direction," Germany's Bernhard Langer said. "When you have a two-tee start, you have a lot more guys playing the same conditions."
This year's major championship winners -- Woods, Retief Goosen and David Duval -- will be paired together for the first two rounds. They go off the 10th tee Thursday at 8:45 a.m. and tee off No. 1 Friday at 1:50 p.m.
Since winning the Memorial in early June, his fourth victory of the year, Tiger Woods has sunk into a summer swoon -- at least by his lofty standards. He has finished outside the top 10 in four consecutive events for the first time since the end of 1997. Here is the streak:
U.S. Open (T12)
Buick Classic (T16)
Western Open (T20)
British Open (T25)
One trend: slow starts. In the first 10 tournaments of 2001, of which he won four, Woods was par or better in each first round, four times breaking 70. In the past four, Woods has not started better than 71 and he's a combined 9 over par. He trailed by eight at the U.S. Open, 10 at the Buick, eight at the Western and six at the British.