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Archive for Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Woods becoming just one of the guys

Tiger’s playing appearance at Tour Championship will be first since his wedding

November 3, 2004

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— Tiger Woods does not play golf with a ring on his finger.

That was the answer to the first question about how things might be different in his first tournament as a married man.

But the biggest change was more subtle.

Woods began his pro-am round at the Tour Championship on the 10th tee. He usually is the first one off on the first tee, a perk he has been afforded the last five years. But the first tee was occupied Tuesday by Vijay Singh, who is firmly entrenched at No. 1 in the world.

Then, Woods had to wait for Singh to finish his interview before he could step to the microphone.

And once Woods finished talking about his three-week honeymoon on a 150-foot yacht in the Caribbean, he was bombarded with questions about Singh -- just like so many other players who for years grew weary talking about Woods.

"He's played some just unbelievable golf this year," Woods said. "For him to play as much as he does and still maintain that edge, and as much as he practices, it's pretty impressive to do all that."

Woods still has eight majors. He is the only professional to hold all four major championship trophies at the same time. He has won more tournaments than anyone else still playing.

But now he is just one of the 31 players at the Tour Championship trying to end his year on a good note. Children still ran after him for his autograph when he arrived at East Lake. He still had more people in his gallery than any other players. If television ratings go up this week, Woods will be the reason.

Still, he now looks like one of the guys -- and not just because he's married.

"The fear factor is gone," one caddie said on the practice range as he watched Woods warm up.

The last time Woods and Singh played together was Labor Day outside Boston, where the 41-year-old Fijian won a thrilling back-nine duel in the Deutsche Bank Championship to end Woods' five-year reign at No. 1 in the world.

Since then, Woods had a disastrous pairing with Phil Mickelson and another losing record in the Ryder Cup. He barely made it through 72 holes of the American Express Championship because of a back injury. And he got married Oct. 5 in Barbados to Swedish nanny Elin Nordegren.

And since becoming No. 1 in the world, Singh has won three times and was runner-up in his other PGA Tour start.

It reminds Woods of the last time someone else was No. 1 in the world -- David Duval, who won 11 times in 18 months and became the first man to shoot 59 in the final round of a PGA Tour event.

"Everybody has a run," Woods said. "I had one. Duval had one. Johnny Miller, (Jack) Nicklaus, (Tom) Watson, everyone has their run. It's just a matter of how long can you continue. Fortunately for me, I lasted five years."

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