POIPU BEACH, Hawaii -- Beating Tiger Woods when he's relaxed and having fun at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf has been nearly impossible.
''I'm excited about being here again,'' said Woods, the Masters
and U.S. Open champion. ''I always have a fantastic time here and
I'm sure this year will be no exception.''
Woods said he enjoys playing the event at the Poipu Bay Golf
Course on the island of Kauai because of the relaxed oceanside
setting, warm weather, friendly people and the intimate atmosphere
''This is the hardest tournament to qualify for,'' he said.
The $1 million, 36-hole stroke-play event begins Tuesday and is
reserved for the winners of the four major championships. With
Woods winning a pair of majors and British Open Ernie Els dropping
out because of scheduling conflicts, Leonard and Love were able to
slip in because of their standing on the major championship points
''Justin and I are real happy Ernie is not here,'' Love joked.
''We are not disappointed at all.''
Beem is making his first appearance.
Love tied for 14th in the Masters and British Open, and tied for
24th in the U.S. Open and 48th in the PGA Championship. He's had
success at Poipu, finishing third in 1997 and second in 2000.
''This is a great, great event,'' Love said. ''Like Tiger said,
it's intimate. It's not like there are 20,000 people out here. It's
a nice quiet group that is fun to play in front of.''
Leonard's season included a tie for fourth in the PGA
Championship, tie for 12th in the U.S. Open, a tie for 14th in the
British Open, and a tie for 20th in the Masters.
Leonard hopes to fare better this week than he did in 1997 when
he finished in last place.
''You know it is pretty easy to improve on a fourth-place finish
by about eight shots,'' he said. ''I think Ernie won that year and
during his acceptance speech, he thanked Tiger and David for
pushing him onto victory and he thanked me for the entertainment
Woods finished in second place that year and won every following
Grand Slam. He also topped the money list for the fourth straight
year with $6,912,625 on the PGA Tour.
But he's not counting his opponents out.
''You know if you look at the collection of the players here,
there are four pretty good players,'' Woods said. ''We've all had
major championship success. We all played well this year.''
Woods won the 2001 Grand Slam finishing with a record 12-under
132 total for a three-stroke victory over David Toms. The previous
year, Woods tied the match with an eagle and followed with another
eagle on the first playoff hole to beat Vijay Singh.
All four contestants will go home with some unofficial prize
money. The Grand Slam winner will earn $400,000 with the
fourth-place finisher earning $150,000.