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Woods silences slump talk

July 08, 2003 13:24 IST
Tiger Woods delivered the perfect riposte to media suggestions that he has suffered a slump this season, romping to victory by five shots at the 100th Western Open on Sunday.

Despite failing to contend in the first two major championships of the year, the world number one has consistently argued his game is very close to where he wants it to be.

His wire-to-wire triumph at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, where he tied the tournament record of 21-under-par 267 for 72 holes, was his fourth win of 2003 in 11 starts and an eloquent indicator of his form going into next week's British Open.

"It's certainly a shot of confidence, there's no doubt about it," Woods said, after securing his third Western Open title.

"Any time you win you've got to feel pretty good about it. The things I've been working on are starting to come together, and they came together this week more so than they did at Westchester (for last month's Buick Classic).

"Hopefully they'll come together more so at the British Open than they did this week."

The 27-year-old American must have experienced mounting frustration as he was continually asked by television, radio and newspaper reporters whether he was in a slump, even judged by his own lofty standards.

FLAT-BATTED REPLIES

Woods has been flat-batting his replies on every occasion.

"I was never in one (a slump)," he told reporters, after tying the course record with a nine-under-par 63 in the Western Open first round.

"If you've been following what I've been saying the last few tournaments I've played in, I'm very close. It's just a matter of the things I'm working on for them to come around.

"You have to be patient."

Before last week, Woods had triumphed at the Buick Invitational in February, and at both the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and Bay Hill Invitational in March.

But his slump critics then shaped their argument over his tie for 15th at the U.S. Masters in April and his joint-20th at the U.S. Open last month as the world number one suddenly found himself without a major title to defend for the first time in nearly four years.

Asked at Olympia Fields (at last month's U.S. Open) if he was in a major slump, he replied: "I don't think I've ever been in a slump, no.

'PRETTY GOOD'

"I think my overall career has been pretty good. Ever since I came out of the womb and I've started playing golf, I've had a pretty good career."

His record-breaking performance at the Western Open could not have been better timed.

"It's satisfying, the fact that I went out there and did the things I've been doing at practice," he said, after becoming the first player to win a minimum of four titles in a single PGA Tour season for a fifth consecutive year.

Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Lloyd Mangrum had previously gone four successive years with four or more PGA Tour victories.

"The things I was starting to work on were starting to come together, and that's what's fun, when you can put things together, take things from the range to the course," added Woods.

"Not only with my swing but with my putting stroke, as well, and then with all the slump talk...I'm sure that's going to be how it is my entire career.

"If I don't win for a few weeks, then all of a sudden I'm back in it again."

FINAL GREEN

Woods did not realise he had eclipsed Hogan, Palmer, Watson and Mangrum until he was told on the final green at Cog Hill.

"I didn't know," he said. "It's pretty nice to have that happen, and means I've been consistent.

"I've been able to not only be consistent but also to close the deal. That's where you ultimately want to be."

Eight-times major winner Woods is exactly where he wants to be as the countdown begins for next week's British Open at Royal St George's.

The game's dominant player did not enjoy optimum preparation for the first two majors of the year following knee surgery last December. Usually, he would have played 12 tournaments before the U.S. Open. This season, he managed only eight.

However, his preparation for next week seems to be going precisely to plan. He has just won his fourth title of the year and will almost certainly be fine-tuning his game, and his fly-fishing, with friends in Ireland over the next few days.

The perfect British Open build-up for Woods and, for the moment, all talk of a slump has been silenced.

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