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Woods, elite field seek confidence beyond Bridgestone

AKRON, Ohio — In the dark, head-to-head, 11 shots clear of the pack and in every other conceivable way, Tiger Woods has dominated at Firestone Country Club. He says the course just makes him feel comfortable.

"Some years I've striped it and have really played well, and other years I've hit it all over the lot and had to be creative," Woods said Wednesday on the eve of beginning his run at an eighth win at the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. "I've chipped and putted and holed out. It's been such a mixed bag."

Woods, eyeing the PGA Championship next week, headlines a 73-player field that includes 49 of the top 50 players in the world ranking. The list contains this year's major champions (Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson), last year's winner (Keegan Bradley) and European stars Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood.

Yet, Woods grabs the spotlight. That's what happens when a player has won more than $9.5 million in just 14 appearances at onee venue.

"This is one of those courses where, for me over the years, I just have felt very comfortable," Woods said.

Others want to win the Bridgestone and use it as a springboard to the year's final major.

Mickelson is returning to action after his win at the British Open.

"Playing the week before (a major) personally helps me play my best and get my best golf out," he said.

Rose won the U.S. Open, then missed the cut in his homeland's national championship. After some time off, he is rejuvenated.

"After the U.S. Open, I had time constraints and would miss the odd practice session," he said. "Your game soon lets you know about that. "

Park pursues history

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — A win this week in the Women's British Open — at St. Andrews, of all places — would make 25-year-old Inbee Park the first golfer to win four majors in one season.

Arnold Palmer created the modern Grand Slam, winning four pro majors in one year. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam got halfway there. No one has had a better shot at it than Park, who has won three LPGA Tour majors this year.

"If it could happen, it's something that I will never forget," she said. "My name will be in the history of golf forever, even after I die."

Park is a heavy favorite when the Open begins today. She has won six times this year and has earned more than $2 million. No one else in women's golf has reached $1 million.

Woods and Mickey Wright are the only players who have held four pro major titles at the same time, both done over two seasons. Woods won the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship and Masters in succession in 2000-01. Wright won the U.S. Women's Open, LPGA Championship, Titleholders and Western Open, then the LPGA's majors, over the 1961-62 seasons.

Wright, 78, has been watching Park on television this year and is struck by her calm. "She certainly is an unflappable young lady," Wright said.

Woods, elite field seek confidence beyond Bridgestone 07/31/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:30pm]
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