IRVING (Texas): There's an angry Tiger Woods stalking his top rivals starting here at the US$6.2mil PGA Byron Nelson Championship after a mistake that cost him a two-stroke penalty last week.
Masters champion Woods, owning only a .18 lead over Fiji's Vijay Singh in the fight for world number one, must face Vijay, Phil Mickelson and South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in quest of a US$1.116mil prize.
Woods was assessed the penalty in the final round of last week's Wachovia Championship when members of the huge gallery watching him moved a picket fence at the 10th hole that was deemed a “temporary immovable obstruction”.
The two-stroke penalty dropped Woods from ninth to a share of 11 and upset the competitive nature of the American star, a nine-time major champion.
“I played my (rear) off coming in,” Woods said. “I eagled 15 and birdied 18 to get a back-door top-10 and when things aren't going well you always want to finish in the top 10. That penalty cost me.
“I've never had a penalty like that in my entire life. I didn't know that rule. It (the fence) was surrounding a (portable bathroom), so I figured I would move the fence.”
Vijay won last week and has won here. Goosen, who defends his US Open title next month, is the only member of the top five never to win this event and he is making his debut this week.
Hungriest of all is defending Byron Nelson champion Sergio Garcia, which apparently is the Spanish wording for Greg Norman.
Garcia squandered a six-stroke lead in the final round to lose last week's event, becoming the first man to blow so great a margin since Norman's last-day Masters collapse that gave England's Nick Faldo a five-stroke victory in 1996.
“I can see only positives,” he said. “I don't see it as a crush.”
Els can relate. He led by eight strokes in 2002 at Miami but only escaped fast-closing Woods by two strokes.
“It was one of the toughest days you can imagine,” Els said. “Everybody expects you to win. Everybody thinks it's done.
“You're thinking 'If I shoot over par I can lose', and you go out and play different golf instead of what you did the first three days.” – AFP