Akron (Ohio): Tiger Woods may have failed to have won a major golf crown for the first time in five years when he stumbled at the US PGA Championship last week, but the world No. 1 is the firm favourite for the multi-million dollar WGC-NEC Invitational here this week.
The 27-year-old is still far ahead of the rest of golf’s finest and he is hungry to slap down the pundits who suggest he has fallen into a slump despite the fact he has won four times this year and amassed nearly $5 million in prize money.
Woods has almost made the World Series of Golf (WGC) series his own, winning seven of the 14 in the series to date and winning three of the previous four WGC-NEC Invitationals.
But the 27-year-old will have a battle on his hands with nearly all the top US and European money-winners competing.
The tournament also gives world No. 2 Ernie Els one of his last chances of the season to try and get himself locked in a head-to-head duel with Woods on the Sunday.
Hope of an Els-Woods confrontation failed to materialise at the US PGA when Woods played the worst he has ever played in a major.
He ended the year’s final major tied for 39th place, his worst major finish as a professional. The previous low mark was a share of 29th at the 1997 and 2001 PGA Championships.
This week gives newly crowned US PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel a chance to prove he is not a one-win wonder.
Until his win last Sunday, Micheel was an unknown journeyman player who was better known for being mistaken for Chad Campbell than for being one of golf’s elite, but winning a major has changed all that.
Surprise British Open winner Ben Curtis gets his chance to show he belongs with the cream after his failure to make the cut at Oak Hill last week.