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Ailment Is Nothing to Sneeze At

TIMES STAFF WRITER

We know Tiger Woods isn’t allergic to winning, but that’s one of the few things that isn’t on his list, he says.

“I think I’m allergic to my job,” said Woods, who mentioned Tuesday that his allergies are bothering him at Muirfield. “I’m allergic to grass, trees, dust, pollen, it’s something I’ve always had. When I was a kid, it was 10 times worse than it is now.”

Woods missed the Western Open with flu-like symptoms, but has been in Ireland and now Scotland for a week, fishing and playing golf in Ireland. Woods said he played Port Marnock, the European Club and Mount Juliet.

He has played practice rounds at Muirfield since Sunday and says he is looking forward to trying to win the third leg of the Grand Slam when the British Open begins Thursday.

“The golf course is playing very difficult now,” he said. “It’s probably the softest I’ve seen [at] an Open Championship with the fairways this lush, but the rough is obviously up and that’s going to be a challenge this week to keep [the ball] in play.”

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Woods also said that Muirfield is not as demanding as Augusta National or Bethpage Black, at least off the tee, and his advantage in length is not as great because many players can hit irons off the tee.

Greg Norman agreed that Muirfield is much different than Bethpage Black, the longest course in U.S. Open history.

“Length is not a premium here even when the wind blows, it’s accuracy,” Norman said.

Davis Love III said in his practice rounds he has hit a driver at only three holes, but not at the 448-yard, par-four No. 1.

“Courses like this better decide who’s the best player,” Love said.

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Woods was stopped by a marshal Monday after he forgot his identification, but talked his way in.

Said Woods: “She may not have been a huge golf fan ... I just said I won this tournament two years ago.”

Woods said the marshal was only doing her job.

“Maybe people forget. I don’t know, two years is a long time.”

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Muirfield has no women members and no junior program, but Woods wasn’t taking sides in the issue. Neither did he take a position or have much to say about last week’s controversy involving Augusta National and the National Council of Women’s Organizations.

“It would be nice to see every golf course open to everyone who wanted to participate, but that’s just now where society is,” he said. “If you just buttonholed this single issue, I think you are not doing justice in the bigger scope and I think there are a lot of other things that go into it.

“It’s not just simple ... he’s too young or he’s not the right race or he doesn’t believe in the right religion ... there’s a lot more to it than just that.”

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It has been a baffling year for David Duval, who won last year at Lytham, but still hasn’t gotten on track this year. Duval says he lost focus and then became too absorbed in his swing. “I wish there was a secret or something, something that’s happened, but that’s not the case,” he said.

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Remember Lee Westwood? A year ago at the British Open at Lytham, Westwood was eighth in the Official World Ranking and he was No. 4 only 14 months ago. Westwood hasn’t won in two years and has fallen to 102nd in the rankings.

Westwood, who tied for 64th at St. Andrews in 2000 and then tied for 47th last year at Lytham, is paired with Ernie Els and Brad Faxon the first two rounds.

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If there is slow play at Muirfield, it’s not going to be Bill Yates’ fault. Yates, of Rolling Hills Estates, has been hired by the Royal and Ancient as a consultant to help maintain a consistent pace of play. Yates, president of Pace Manager Systems, inspired the USGA’s Pace Rating Manual.

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No, it is not intimidating to play against Woods, says Sergio Garcia, despite what happened at the U.S. Open, where Woods began slowly and Garcia failed to mount a charge.

“You [reporters] like to try to intimidate us about playing with him,” Garcia said. “He makes you feel good. I love playing with him. I know he’s a great player and, yes, I do get nervous when I play with him because I know I have to play my best, but [I am] not at all intimidated because I know if I play well, I can beat anybody out here.”

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Interesting pairings for the first two rounds include Woods, Justin Rose and Shigeki Maruyama; Duval, Thomas Bjorn and Shingo Katayama; Norman, Garcia and Robert Karlsson; Vijay Singh, Jesper Parnevik and Jim Furyk; Love, Colin Montgomerie and K.J. Choi and Phil Mickelson, Nick Faldo and Hal Sutton.

John Daly, who might be the fastest player on the tour, is paired with Padraig Harrington, one of the slowest.


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