He has captured the Masters and the British Open this year and was within a couple of putts of taking the U.S. Open in June. This week, world number one golfer Tiger Woods of the United States tries for his third major title of the year. Woods leads an all-star field into the PGA Championship in New Jersey.
Tiger Woods has been here before, winning two major tournaments and aiming to win a third. In 2000, Woods took the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes and the British Open at Saint Andrews by eight shots. He went on to win the PGA. Before then, only golf legend Ben Hogan had won three major professional tournaments in the same year.
This year, Woods captured his fourth Masters title at Augusta in April and took the British Open at Saint Andrews in July. He was within two putts of capturing the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. But his winning has deflated some of the excitement at Baltusrol Golf Club this week. Woods is expected to win and he says that he has noticed the difference between this week and five years ago.
"I've done this before. I have won three majors in one year," Woods notes. "And I guess from some of the guys I have talked to in the media this week, the novelty factor is not there any more. You have already done it."
If Woods takes this week's tournament, he will be the only player in history to win three majors in a single year two times. Woods beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff in the Masters and took the British Open by five strokes. But Baltusrol will demand exact drives from the field, and its tall rough is unforgiving. Woods is 177th on the Tour in driving accuracy, meaning he hits the fairways about one-half of the time.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington, this year's Honda Classic and Barclays Classic winner, says that Woods is not the player he was five years ago and the field is not as intimidated by him.
"In 2000, he was a phenomenal player that nobody could touch," he says. "And this year, he's still a great player but I don't think -- he's probably not as untouchable as he was in 2000."
To win his 11th career major title, Woods will have to get by a tough field this week, including defending champion Vijay Singh of Fiji, the world number two golfer and former Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Singh has emerged as Woods's main rival after finishing in the top 10 in each of the three majors so far this year.
Both Woods and Singh have done well in the PGA, with Woods capturing the title in 1999 and 2000 and Singh taking the title in 1998 and 2004. Tiger has also altered his swing since 2000, a move that saw him not win a major tournament from June 2002 until the Masters this year. But he says he would not want to go back to the way he played five years ago.
"Would you ever want to go back to 2000? No, I don't want to go back to 2000," he says. " I want to become better than that. And that is why I am making the changes, I want to become better."
Woods says that his iron play and short game are better than in 2000 but he concedes he will have a tough fight on his hands. Ironically, one reason he might struggle this week is other players worked on their games in order to overcome his dominance.
The tournament is being played on the Baltusrol Golf Club's Lower Course, a par-70 layout that measures 6,744 meters. The winners share is still to be determined, but last year, Vijay Singh took home $1,125,000.