Woods at his best at Firestone, Torrey, Bay Hill
AKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods has been very good at a lot of courses.
At three, in particular, he's been sensational.
Woods has won eight times at Arnold Palmer's tournament at Bay Hill, eight times at the Bridgestone at Firestone and also eight times at Torrey Pines, where he's won the Farmers Insurance seven times in addition to the 2008 U.S. Open.
So, Tiger, if you could play only one course, which would it be?
"Can I play six holes on each?" he cracked.
His win totals at Bay Hill and Firestone tie him for the PGA Tour record with Sam Snead, an eight-time winner at the Greater Greensboro Open.
Even Woods marvels at how he's dominated on those oh-so-different venues.
"It's interesting because they're so different," Woods said. "Torrey being seaside, and Bay Hill has got a lot of twists and turns. And this one is just as straightforward and plain Jane as can be. But for some reason, on all three golf courses I feel comfortable with my sight lines, even though they're three distinctly different golf courses."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Defending Bridgestone winner Keegan Bradley, who tied for second, seven shots back of Woods: "You know, I hate to sit here and go on and on about how good he is, but he is. It's difficult because I really want to get up there and contend with him. But he's just ... this week he's playing really well."
THE DEFENDER: Rory McIlroy didn't have an awful weekend. He just didn't do anything terribly encouraging heading into his defense of the 2012 PGA Championship.
McIlroy, who won at Kiawah last year, closed with a 72 after rounds of 70, 71 and 69 to finish at 2-over 282.
"I thought I struck the ball much better today than I did the previous three days, which was great -- a good sign," he said. "Obviously I didn't score well the first day, then didn't hit it particularly well the middle two rounds. Today I played nicely, a couple of bad holes on the back nine. Yeah, it was OK. I'm definitely going in the right direction."
Even he concedes that he isn't as confident in his game as he was a year ago, when he finished tied for fifth behind Keegan Bradley.
"I keep saying my game doesn't feel too far away," he said. "It's obviously not where I want it to be, but it's not a million miles away."
PGA PREP: Phil Mickelson, winner of the previous major when he came out of nowhere two weeks ago at the British Open, says he's done most of his homework for Oak Hill.
He just has to formulate a plan of attack.
"I spent Monday at Oak Hill, so I don't have to do too much course work," he said after a 71 that left him at 281. "I've studied the golf course. I know exactly how I'm going to play it. I just need to get my game sharp now."
He said he will most likely take Monday off to rest, then will place a practice round on Tuesday at the course and then will see how he feels on the eve of the tournament.
RECONVENING IN OHIO: The Bridgestone also served as a place to pile up Presidents Cup points. Only a handful of events are left for players hoping to accumulate enough points to make the teams on their own.
The top 10 U.S. players on the PGA Tour money list through the Deutsche Bank on Sept. 2 are assured of spots on the American side. Fred Couples then will make two captain's picks to add to the team on Sept. 4. The format is almost identical for the International team (players from all countries outside of Europe), with captain Nick Price also selecting two additional players.
The Presidents Cup will be played Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield Village, about 2 hours away in suburban Columbus.
The top 10 Americans heading into Akron were Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson, with Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Billy Horschel and Jason Dufner filling the 11-14 spots.
On the International list, the top 10 includes Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Richard Sterne, Angel Cabrera and Tim Clark with Thongchai Jaidee, George Coetzee, March Leishman, Graham DeLaet and Geoff Ogilvy on the outside looking in.
The big question for Price when he makes his picks is does he go off the points list, based on the past two years, or go with whomever is playing the best now?
"That's the $64,000 question," he said earlier this week. "We will weigh how much experience we have on the team, who the hot players are, and if we're short on experience we may throw in a guy there who has more experience."
NON-SHOT OF THE DAY: Henrik Stenson was playing in the same group as Woods. Both parred the first hole, Woods maintaining his seven-shot lead.
At the dogleg No. 2, Stenson's drive was tucked behind trees so he had to hit a low lay up in front of the pond which fronts the green.
From there, he hit a sand wedge right on the mark -- actually, too much on the mark.
The ball landed, took one hop and clanged off the pin, the backspin causing it to roll off the green and to the collar next two deep rough. Stenson chipped from there, the ball lipping out, and he had to settle for bogey.
Had his chip not hit the pin, it would have been very close to going in. Instead, he fell further behind and Woods felt even less pressure to make birdies.
FOUR MORE YEARS: Bridgestone re-upped for four more years, meaning it will be the title sponsor of the tournament for the next five years.
Tour officials said the tournament would most likely continue to be the week before the PGA Championship and would stay at Firestone Country Club.
MISSING THE ACTION: A contractual dispute between CBS and Time Warner resulted in the network dropping off the cable for millions of potential viewers of both the Bridgestone and next week's PGA Championship.
The dispute centers on customers in New York, Dallas and Los Angeles after fee negotiations between the two sides collapsed. Talks are ongoing.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem was asked if he was distressed by that turn of events.
"I don't want to comment about the issues involved in that negotiation," he said. "Obviously from our perspective and other sports that are carried on CBS, I'd like to see it resolved. We hope it will be."
A BIG FAN: Woods said he was overjoyed that the Bridgestone would remain at Firestone. He only had one minor gripe.
"I was telling a guy out there, they've got to do one-year deals," he joked. "Talk to Tim (Finchem) and let's tear this (contract) up and do one-year deals. (Then) my stats will be looking pretty good."
DIVOTS: Woods is 23 for 23 in terms of winning after he carries a lead of three or more shots heading into the final round of a PGA Tour event. ... Woods collected $1.5 million, giving him more than $11 million in winnings in just one tournament. ... Woods' 10th season with five wins adds to his own PGA Tour record. Sam Snead had eight such years, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus seven apiece. ... Zach Johnson moved from 12th to 10th in the Presidents Cup standings, bumping Dustin Johnson, with his final-round 67 that left him tied for fourth in the Bridgestone. ... Stenson has finished second in his last two tournaments. He was runner-up to Phil Mickelson two weeks ago at the British Open. ... Bill Haas, who tied for seventh, leads the tour with nine top-10 finishes this year. ... Chris Wood tied for seventh in his first appearance at the Bridgestone.
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Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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