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Tiger Woods looking to end major drought with victory in PGA Championship

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

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Dates: Thursday-Sunday.

Site: Oak Hill Country Club (East Course), Rochester, N.Y.

Length: 7,163 yards.

Par: 35-35 — 70.

TV: Thursday and Friday, noon to 6 p.m., TNT. Saturday and Sunday,
10 a.m. to 1 p.m., TNT;
1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Ch. 2.

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Tiger Woods is coming off a seven-stroke rout at the Bridgestone Invitational. Phil Mickelson will be trying to add a second consecutive major to a
marvelous British Open
finish in which he birdied four of the last six holes.

Put it all on Oak Hill, which has hosted U.S. Opens, PGAs and a Ryder Cup, and you have the ingredients for a classic finish to the major season on a historic stage.

The key question: Is Woods ready to break the longest major drought of his career this week in Rochester, N.Y.? He hasn’t won a big one since he notched his 14th major title at the 2008 U.S. Open. And the pressure seems to mount with each disappointment.

Woods insisted he’s ready.

‘‘I feel good,’’ Woods said after practice Tuesday. ‘‘I had a great week last week, [and] I’ve had a couple of nice days of practice. The golf course is in fantastic shape. It’s dry now, it’s got some speed to it and the rough is certainly up. It’s imperative to hit the ball in the fairways and hit the ball on the greens because it’s going to be tough to get up and down.’’

With Woods, though, the game seems to be played increasingly on that 51/2-inch course that Bobby Jones described so well so long ago: ‘‘the space between your ears.’’

There’s no quibbling with how he smoked the field last week at Firestone, earning his fifth victory of the season. It was the 79th PGA Tour triumph of his career, three short of Sam Snead’s record.

And the 61 Woods shot Friday was dazzling. With five holes to go, he needed only two more birdies to shoot a magical 59. It didn’t happen. Two birdie putts of less than 10 feet wouldn’t fall, and Woods settled for par on the lone remaining par-5 because of awkward lies on his second and third shots.

Nothing is going to detract from a 61. Yet with the intensity visible on his face and with the precision he had with his putter that day, you couldn’t help but feel the Tiger of old would have closed that deal. A 59 would have added to his legend, and Woods is into that.

Woods insisted he doesn’t need to win a major to validate his season.

‘‘It’s been a great year so far for me, winning five times,’’ he said. ‘‘And when you look at the quality of tournaments I’ve won, a Players and two World Golf Championships in there, that’s pretty good.’’

No doubt about it. It has been an exceptional year that has put him atop the world rankings again. But has Woods, who always has had Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors atop his to-do list, changed his definition of a great year?

‘‘No,’’ he said crisply.

Woods also is sticking to his story that he has been knocking on the door for a 15th major and expects to break it down soon.

‘‘I’ve had my opportunities on the back nine on probably half of those Sundays for the last five years and just haven’t won it,’’ he said. ‘‘The key is to keep giving myself chances, and eventually I’ll start getting them.’’

At this point, he’ll have to prove that with irrefutable evidence. Even if he is the best player in the world.

Twitter: @HerbGould

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