GRAND SLAM OF GOLF
Jim Furyk, left, and Tiger Woods shared a laugh during a swing clinic for the Grand Slam of Golf at the Poipu Bay Golf Course on Kauai yesterday.
Woods still the 1 to beat
The world's No. 1 player tops the field for Grand Slam
POIPU, Kauai » Jim Furyk has a higher winning percentage than Tiger Woods in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, but that doesn't make him the favorite in the $1.25 million, 36-hole tournament today and tomorrow.
Furyk won in his only appearance in 2003 at the Poipu Bay Golf Course on Kauai, but perhaps that happened only because it was the first time Woods didn't qualify for the event since turning pro.
Woods, a six-time winner here, and Furyk tee it up for the first round today along with U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Weir, chasing the $500,000 first prize in the tournament that tries to bring the year's four major winners together.
"I'm 1-for-1, but he's 6-for-7," said Furyk,
an alternate who qualified from a points list for the vacancy created after Woods won two majors -- the British Open and the PGA Championship. "Am I the favorite? I'd have to say with the best player in the world, no. It doesn't matter. We'll just go out and play well and do the best we can."
Putting is what set Woods apart from the competition during his Grand Slam victories from 1998 to 2002 and again in 2005, but he had some problems on the greens yesterday, leaving many putts short on the front nine of the pro-am.
If Woods' putting stays cold, it could open the door for Furyk, Ogilvy and Weir to do what only Ernie Els has done in the past -- beat Woods in the Grand Slam. That was way back in 1997, when Woods was a PGA Tour rookie.
Els actually qualified for the Grand Slam as an alternate this year when Masters champion Phil Mickelson dropped out, but Els had a prior commitment to a tournament in his native South Africa, so Weir -- perhaps the world's best lefty not named Mickelson -- took his place.
Weir isn't a stranger to Poipu Bay, having finished second to Furyk in 2003.
"In 2003, I came over here and had a good time and didn't take it very seriously," Weir said. "I'm still having fun over here, but I want to get two good rounds under my belt with a good mind-set for next year. I've been taking this a little more seriously than 2003. I've been working real hard on my game and usually this is a down time for me. Right now, I'm motivated because I want to play well."
Ogilvy is the only newcomer among the four.
"This is my first time here, but you only have to beat three guys, so hopefully, I'll be up there," he said.
Woods is coming off a playoff loss to Padraig Harrington in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan on Sunday, his second career playoff defeat.
"That was a very frustrating deal because I didn't play well," Woods said. "I had the lead and was in control with three holes to go. Then I was kind of struggling and so was Paddy. It was just a matter of who was going to get into the clubhouse better than the other person and he obviously did that."
Will the loss make him hungrier today and tomorrow?
"Always. Every time you tee it up," he said.
Not that Woods needs a loss for motivation.
"Over the years, I've always felt comfortable playing here," he said. "I don't know why. I've shot some pretty low scores around here."
Woods and Mickelson share the event record of 17-under 127, but Mickelson owns the course record of 59. Woods' lowest round was 61 in 2002.
He knows the three others, especially Furyk, are capable of making a serious challenge.
"From May on, Jim's been on one unbelievable run of consistent golf. I don't think he finished out of the top 5 but once in that stretch."
But are the other three ready to do the work necessary to beat Woods on what has turned into his own personal playground?
"It'd be nice (to win it)," Ogilvy said. "Tiger obviously plays well here. He's played here more times than anyone else."
"You won't see anyone killing themselves at the range" Furyk added, "but that doesn't mean when you tee it up that you don't want to play well. The idea is to come here and try to play as well as you can, but you also want to have some fun."