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Woods chases history at PGA

Tiger is gunning for his fourth win in the last 5 majors

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Draper resident Mike Weir got a close look at Tigermania a year ago at the PGA Championship.

He doesn't talk as if he'd mind being in the same spot again.

The Canadian lefty and former BYU star shared the lead with Tiger Woods heading into the final round of the 1999 PGA at Medinah Country Club. But a closing 80 dropped him all the way to a 10th-place tie and far away from Woods' stretch-run victory over Sergio Garcia.

With Woods streaking to lopsided wins at the U.S. and British Opens, most of the attention this week at the PGA at Valhalla Golf Club seems to center on Woods' bid for his fourth win in the last five majors.

"Obviously, the talk's going to be about him going for a third major in one year. That's to be expected," Weir said before stepping on the practice putting green.

A columnist in the Louisville newspaper declared Monday that Woods would win by four shots. Golf Digest said, "We're betting on Tiger."

That's what riles Weir and many other players — the contention by media and fans that all Woods has to do is remain upright and breathing for four days to whip his overmatched peers.

"That's one person's opinion, one writer's opinion," Weir said. "He's entitled to that. But I'm sure most of the players out here feel they have a chance to win. If they didn't, it wouldn't be a tournament."

Hal Sutton gave a heavy sigh when asked yet again about Woods' domination in the Opens.

"You know what?" Sutton said with a sideways glance. "He played great in the U.S. Open and the British Open. But this is the PGA."

The field includes 91 of the top 100 players in the world rankings, including many of the usual suspects: Ernie Els, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, Sutton, Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III.

All have Tiger — and, almost coincidentally, the Wannamaker Trophy — in their sights.

Despite what many see as a gaping chasm between Woods and the best of the rest, his domination has raised the bar for everyone.

"I think Tiger's presence has really fired up some guys to really play better," veteran Loren Roberts said. He cited Els and Mickelson as examples of players who have accepted the challenge of improving to compete with Woods.

"I think that's a good thing. That's spurring a lot of guys on. I don't think it's caused any player to back off or to wilt or anything like that," Roberts said.

The Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla course is playing host to its second PGA Championship in four years. Mark Brooks birdied the first playoff hole to eliminate Kentucky-born favorite Kenny Perry.

That was Brooks' first and only major victory — and also the last time he won a tournament of any kind.

Few expect such an upset to happen this time. Woods has finished in the top 10 in his last six starts in the majors and nine of the last 11.

So it's little wonder that everyone considers this to be Woods' tournament to win or lose.

"The media's probably already given it to him," Steve Lowery said. "But these guys are a lot better than everybody realizes. Tiger's a great player, but there's a lot of other great players."

Maybe so, but none of them are shooting to become the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in the same year. None of them won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach, then became the youngest player to win all four majors by taking the British Open by eight strokes.

Even though Woods didn't finish in the top 10 at last week's Buick Open, his persistence has to have knocked some pros back on their heels.

"He's played great," Weir said. "I don't know if it makes us want to play better or work harder."