Tiger says he's not driven by Buick cash

Thursday, July 28, 2005

GRAND BLANC, Mich. -- Tiger Woods usually shows up to play the PGA Tour stop near the Motor City, and he insists it has nothing to do with the millions Buick pays him to promote its automobiles.

The world's top-ranked golfer will compete in this week's Buick Open for the fourth straight year and the seventh time since his first full season on tour eight years ago.

Woods signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the automaker in 1999, and agreed to another five-year deal in 2004 believed to be worth more than $40 million.

"I came here before I started representing Buick because I enjoy it," Woods said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I come to tournaments I enjoy -- and this is one of them -- period.

"I've fallen in love with the course, and the environment. I've never been a fan of TPC courses, so it's nice to play old-school courses like this one that are laid out right in front of you. It's not one of the hardest, but it's fair and you know you have to go low."

Defending champion Vijay Singh needed a 23-under 265 last year to hold off John Daly by a stroke and Woods by two.

Woods is making his regular stop at the Buick Open, which starts Thursday, two weeks after winning the British Open and two weeks before shooting for his 11th major title. Woods said he's not preparing for the PGA Championship while he competes this week because he hasn't played Baltusrol. But he is following a pattern he has developed before competing in golf's four annual marquee events.

"I generally don't like to go into a major just dry," he said. "I generally will play two weeks prior to a major. I usually take the week off right before.

"I enjoy the two weeks prior to a major because I'm still in a competitive mode, and success or failure, whatever it is that week, at least I know what to work on when I'm at home. I've done pretty well with that formula."

Warwick Hills, about 60 miles north of Buick's headquarters in Detroit, is a relatively short course with receptive greens and without extremely tight fairways. It's usually one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour, and with rain soaking the course recently it will be even more susceptible to low scores.

"It's not a place where power is going to dominate," said Jim Furyk, the tournament's all-time money leader. "I think guys that are good from 100 yards and in can really do well here."

Singh is one of three players to win the Buick Open twice. He has a chance to be the first champion to repeat since Tony Lema in 1965, and the first to win the tournament three times.

"I'm not going to think about that," he said.

Singh entered the 2004 Buick Open with three victories -- the same total he has this year -- before picking up his fourth of nine titles en route to player of the year honors.

"If I can do what I did last year it's going to be unbelievable," he said. "I feel like I played better this year than I had last year to this point, but I just have to finish it off like I did last year."

Woods and Singh, the No. 2 player in the world rankings, are joined in the field by top players such as Furyk, Fred Funk and Chris DiMarco.

Fans always flock to Woods, like they do everywhere, but Daly also draws a crowd in an area that prides itself on its blue-collar ways.

"The fans here are unbelievable," he said. "Everybody is real close. The roar at No. 2 (where he made an eagle from 142 yards) last year on Sunday was probably one of the loudest I've heard in my life.

"The fans are great everywhere I go, but the fans here are unbelievable."

Woods has been consistent at the Buick Open, another factor in his affection for the tournament.

Since opening with a 72 in 1997, he has broken par 23 straight times and has eight consecutive rounds in the 60s, tying Furyk's tournament record. Woods won here in 2002, then tied for second and third. In six appearances, he has finished no worse than 11th.

"There are very few golf courses that you play over the course of a year that you really enjoy the lines off the tees, and I've always felt comfortable here," he said. "I think my record kind of reflects that."

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