WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia, USA 5th July – Tiger Woods, fresh off his 74th career victory last week, brings his skills for the first time to the former home of the only golfer to have won more titles, Sam Snead.
Woods tees off Thursday alongside fellow Americans Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson, who won last month’s US Open, at the $6.1 million US PGA Greenbrier Classic at the Greenbrier layout where the late Snead was club professional.
Snead won a PGA record 82 career titles, his last coming at age 52. Woods won last week to break a tie for second at 73 with Jack Nicklaus, whose 18 major titles is the mark 14-time major champion Woods has chased since boyhood.
But Woods appreciates Snead’s feat as well, even though it came before the current golf superstar was even born. Woods was only five years old when he met Snead and they struck up a friendship before Snead died in 2002.
“Sam’s record, to do it for that long, is just absolutely phenomenal,” Woods said. “He didn’t exactly have easy guys to play against, (Ben) Hogan and (Byron) Nelson.
“His swing is one of the classic swings that we all try and replicate. We all looked at it, we all analyzed it and we all tried to do it. He was blessed just like Hogan with amazing flexibility that a lot of guys just can’t do. I mean, he’s kicking door archways in his 50s and 60s.”
Woods is the season’s only three-time winner, having also taken key major tuneup titles at the Memorial in June and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. He leads the US PGA money list and scoring average, ranks fifth in driving and 10th in reaching greens in regulation.
And even worse for rivals as the British Open looms in two weeks at Royal Lytham, he is gaining confidence.
“If you have a positive tournament, you try and ride that,” Woods said. “If you have a negative tournament, that didn’t exist. So obviously I feel very excited about what I did last week.”
Stricker, who hopes a strong showing will help his chances of making the US Ryder Cup team, will have wife Nicki as his caddie. He will attempt his fourth title in a row at the US PGA John Deere Classic next week.
Phil Mickelson, who missed the cut at last year’s Greenbrier, will play alongside defending champion Scott Stallings and Australian Stuart Appleby, who fired a final-round 59 at Greenbrier in 2010 to win by a stroke.
A major storm a heat wave that struck the region last Friday has left more than 1.8 million people in 11 states without power, toppling more than 80 trees at Greenbrier, one that toppled a bleachers stand behind the 16th green.
Volunteers cleared debris last weekend and the event is ready even though more than 300,000 people in West Virginia remain without power.