Things Just Won't Be Ironed Out at Medinah

Times Staff Writer

Tiger Woods just won his third British Open and his 11th major title by basically shoving his driver to the bottom of his bag, but that strategy probably won't cut it at next month's PGA Championship at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club.

The PGA of America has set up Medinah as the longest course in the history of major championship golf -- 7,561 yards -- and chances are good that drivers, not just the one belonging to Woods, are going to get plenty of work.

In 2004, Whistling Straits played 7,536 yards for the PGA Championship and was the longest course for a major. This year's Masters at Augusta National was the next longest, at 7,445 yards.

Woods won the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah with an 11-under-par 277, one shot better than Sergio Garcia, when the appearance of the course was a lot different. That was 160 yards and 300 trees ago. Among his many moves, designer Rees Jones added the length and cleared 300 trees from the course to cut out blind shots on the first and eighth holes.

Jones also eliminated a fairway bunker on the 453-yard 16th hole, moved the tee back at No. 17 and lowered the green so it is adjacent to a lake. At the 443-yard 18th, Jones added bunkers to the right side of the fairway's landing area, re-graded the fairway, elevated the green above two large greenside bunkers and put in a chipping, or roll-off area, beyond the right side of the green.

Jones said hitting longer irons into greens at Hoylake during the British Open, as Woods did, paid off because the greens aren't as "fortified" as those at Medinah. He also said that while the fairway bunkers at Hoylake were punishing, players could recover from the greenside bunkers. At Medinah, Jones said, the opposite is true.

Medinah has four par fives, one of them the 605-yard 14th, which Jones left alone.

Woods played the par fives at Hoylake in a combined 14 under, with 10 birdies and two eagles.

"Don't forget, Medinah is a par 72, so you can still score," Jones said Monday. "I think the players will notice a different golf course from 1999. We've relocated many of the bunkers and brought them tighter to the green."

After rolling through Hoylake, Woods seemed like his old self, not the player who missed the cut at the U.S. Open in June, in his previous major outing.

His British Open victory was a hit with television viewers. ABC posted a 5.0 overnight Nielsen rating for Sunday's final round, a slight increase from last year's 4.9, when Woods also won.

On display was vintage Woods. He is 35-3 in tournaments after holding the 54-hole lead, including 11-0 in majors.

Woods' winning total of 18 under at Hoylake, one off his British Open record in 2000 at St. Andrews, was worth $1,338,480 and made him the all-time leading money winner at the Open with more than $4.2 million. He also passed $60 million on the PGA Tour career money list in his 10th full year as a pro.

The victory was his 49th PGA Tour title and kept him ahead of Jack Nicklaus' pace toward his record 18 majors. He begins the 401st week of his career ranked No. 1 in the world. Since 1986, when world rankings began, Greg Norman is second with 331 weeks at No. 1.

Woods, 30, has 11 major championships. Nicklaus reached 11 when he won the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach at 32.

Next for Woods is probably the $4.8-million Buick Open, Aug. 3-6, at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich. Vijay Singh is the defending champion. The PGA Championship at revamped Medinah is two weeks later, Aug. 17-20.



Chasing a Bear

A look at the accomplishments of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods through the age of 30. Nicklaus finished with 73 PGA Tour wins (second to Sam Snead's 82), including 18 major victories (first overall).

*--* NICKLAUS AGE WOODS Win Major Win Major 0 0 20 2 0 0 0 21 4 Masters 3 U.S. 22 1 0 5 Masters, PGA 23 8 PGA 4 0 24 9 U.S., British, PGA 5 Masters 25 5 Masters 3 Masters, British 26 5 Masters, U.S. 5 U.S. 27 5 0 2 0 28 1 0 3 0 29 6 Masters, British 3 British 30 3 British TOTALS 33 7 49 11




Tiger's tale

A look at Tiger Woods' 2006 PGA Tour season and his finishes as a professional at the British Open:


* PGA Tour events played: 10

* Tour victories:

1. Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines

2. Ford Championship at Doral

3. British Open at Royal Liverpool

* Cuts made: 9

* Top-10 finishes: 6

* Rounds played: 33

* Rounds under par: 23

* Rounds in the 60s: 15

* Earnings: $4,263,569


*--* Year Course Place Score 2006 Royal Liverpool 1st 270 2005 St. Andrews 1st 274 2004 Royal Troon T-9th 281 2003 Royal St. George's T-4th 285 2002 Muirfield T-28th 284 2001 Royal Lytham & St. Annes T-25th 283 2000 St. Andrews 1st 269 1999 Carnoustie T-7th 294 1998 Royal Birkdale 3rd 281 1997 Royal Troon T-24th 284


Source: Times wire services

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