Woods watches his tee shot on the second hole Wednesday in
, during a practice round for The Barclays golf tournament.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. - Tiger Woods'
final-round putting problems probably cost him the PGA Championship
two weeks ago at Hazeltine. He was still trying to find his usual
deft touch on the eve of The Barclays.
In his pro-am round Wednesday at
Liberty National, his first look at the $250 million course a couple
of par 5s from the Statue of Liberty, he struggled on the undulating
greens, then spent about 45 minutes on the practice green.
"They are tough. They are going
to be severe this week," Woods said. "If the wind blows
like this, it's going to be tough — tough to get the ball close.
Some of the more severe greens actually are the longest holes."
Winless in the four majors for the
first time since 2004, Woods is playing the FedEx Cup opener for the
first time — and making his first start in the event since 2003 at
Westchester Country Club. He leads the tour with five victories,
earnings of $7,688,163 and tops the Cup standings with 3,431 points.
Asked why he was playing, Woods
replied, "I qualified."
One-liners aside, he also is chasing
his second FedEx Cup — the only important title left this season
— and is stepping up at a time when PGA Tour commissioner Tim
Finchem is asking players to do more for sponsors in a tough
Woods played the Buick Open, even
though his endorsement contract with the automaker ended last year.
That meant playing three weeks in a row, and Woods said Wednesday
that being in contention three straight weeks — two victories and
blowing a two-shot lead at Hazeltine to Y.E. Yang — took its toll.
"I think we have to support the
tour," Woods said.
He tops the 125 players who qualified
for the $65 million playoff bonanza — a $7.5 million purse at each
of the four events, with $35 million in bonus money for the FedEx
Cup. The points system has been tweaked to put more emphasis on the
regular season, with quintuple the value of points during the
playoffs, then a reset that allows for a shootout at the Tour
Championship for the $10 million prize.
"You want to be here. You want
to be in the playoffs," said Woods, playing seven events in a
nine-week stretch. "And ultimately, this is our opportunity to
get in the Tour Championship."
Woods could have skipped The Barclays
and won the FedEx Cup, as he did in 2007. He learned Wednesday that
it was possible for him to win the next three tournaments, finish
second at the Tour Championship and not capture the title. Or that
someone could take the big prize without winning a single tournament
"It is different, there's no
doubt," he said.
Liberty National is different, too.
The links-style course sits on the
site of an old oil refinery, a toxic area once dotted with empty
tanks and 12 rotting warehouses.
"The first time we showed up
here, it was a nightmare," said Bob Cupp, the course architect
who teamed with Tom Kite to design the layout. "We were pretty
sure any travesty known to man was on this property."
Paul Fireman, the billionaire Reebok
founder and chairman, brought in Cupp and Kite in 1992. After
seemingly endless environmental studies and red tape, they broke
ground in 2003 and opened the course in 2006.
Nearly three million cubic yards of
clay and soil were hauled in — 200 trucks a day for 18 months —
to cap the toxic site and sculpt the scenic course.
"Everything out there is 100
percent created," Kite said.
The property was covered with plastic
and millions of tons of clay, followed by another plastic liner, a
4-foot layer of sand, and finally soil.
"In essence, we have built an
umbrella over the oil tanks," Cupp said.
When they finished, they had a
160-acre layout with 4,000 feet of waterfront and magnificent views
of the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan skyline and Verrazano-Narrows
Bridge. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Patriots owner
Robert Kraft were founding members and Phil Mickelson, Giants
quarterback Eli Manning and LPGA Tour player Cristie Kerr have
joined the ultra-exclusive club.
"This is the ideal club,"
Mickelson said. "It's right by Manhattan. The practice
facilities are great and the golf course is fun to play, so it was a
natural to join."
The location and views attracted the
"It's going to be an absolute
stunning presentation on HD television," Finchem said.
Liberty National is a big change for
the tournament after 41 years at Westchester and one at Ridgewood,
both traditional, tree-lined courses.
"You know, you can like blondes
and redheads. You don't have to be so exclusive that you only like
blondes," Kite said. "Brunettes are pretty good,