Fellow pros talk Tiger’s PGA chances

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Fellow pros talk Tiger’s PGA chances

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - British Open champion Darren Clarke believes Tiger Woods can contend for this week’s PGA Championship, the year’s final major, despite only recently coming back from a three-month injury layoff.

Woods practiced late on Tuesday afternoon at the Atlanta Athletic Club, enjoying a brief session on the range and the practice green before heading out on to the course with his good friend Arjun Atwal of India.

There was surprisingly little attention paid to Woods by the fans, perhaps due to the low expectations surrounding the former world No. 1, who has now sunk to 30th in the rankings.

Woods, who has claimed four PGA Championship titles, has struggled this year while battling injuries and trying to rebuild his golf swing and his private life following the breakup of his marriage.

He returned to the PGA Tour, after three months on the sidelines with leg injuries, at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational where he tied for 37th after displaying erratic form.

But Northern Irishman Clarke believes Woods showed enough form last week in Akron, Ohio, to indicate he could be a genuine contender for the PGA Championship on Sunday.

“I thought his game last week in the first two rounds was pretty good,” said Clarke, who played alongside his good friend Woods for the first two days. “I thought he hit an awful lot of really, really good golf shots.

“To come back after a long layoff, you can practice as much as you want, but until you get into competition and actually put yourself back into a competitive arena, it’s totally different.”

Woods, who has had four surgeries on his left knee over the years, has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open nor any tournament worldwide since 2009 and British world No. 1 Luke Donald does not expect that to change this week.

“From what I heard, he found a lot of positives in his game, but obviously it’s not where he wanted to be,” Donald said of the American’s performance in Akron. “It’s going to take some time, I think. It would surprise me if he went on and won in the next couple of weeks, just because coming off that injury, personally, for myself was very difficult, and I think everyone’s going to feel the same way.”

Donald’s 2008 PGA Tour season was cut short after he had surgery on his left wrist.

“It is very difficult to come off a layoff from injury,” Donald added. “When I did it, when I injured my wrist, getting back into competition was completely different to hitting balls on the range. You can feel very comfortable on the range, and getting back into that competitive mode is tough. It might take a little bit of time.” Reuters

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Jones Creek, Ga., Tuesday. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

한글 관련 기사 [연합뉴스]

美골퍼들, 메이저대회 우승 가뭄 언제까지?

2011 골프시즌 마지막 메이저대회인 제93회 PGA 챔피언십 개막이 다가옴에 따라 미국 골프 선수들이 전의를 불태우고 있다.

만약 이번 대회에서 미국 선수가 우승하지 못하면 미국은 1994년 이래 처음으로 시즌 내 메이저대회 우승을 모두 놓치게 된다.

미국은 지난해 마스터스 대회에서 필 미켈슨이 우승을 차지한 후 메이저대회 우승 선수를 배출하지 못했고 PGA챔피언십에서는 2007년 타이거 우즈(미국) 이후 3년간 미국인 우승자가 나오지 않았다.

미국 선수 중에서는 가장 높은 세계랭킹 5위에 오른 스티브 스트리커는 11일 AFP통신과의 인터뷰에서 단순한 도전자의 입장에서 벗어나 첫 메이저대회 우승을 하고 싶다는 열망을 표현하며 "모든 미국 선수들이 지난 6번의 메이저대회를 치르며 더 열심히 해서 이겨야겠다고 자극받았을 것"이라고 설명했다.

하지만 이번 대회 코스가 미국 선수들에게 유리할 것이라는 전망에 대해서는 의문을 표하며 "어디 출신인지는 중요하지 않다"고 말했다.

또 "(골프에는) 아무런 속임수가 없다. 끊임없이 노력해서 모든 샷을 잘 쳐내야 하고 그건 쉬운 일이 아니다"라고 덧붙였다.

우즈는 "미국 선수들이 대학을 거치는데 비해 유럽 선수들은 바로 프로로 데뷔해 더 유리한 점이 있다"고 말했다.

데이비드 톰스(미국) 또한 PGA 투어에 미국 출신이 아닌 선수들의 비율이 늘고 이들이 미국에 거주한다는 것이 영향을 미친다고 설명했다.

하지만 톰스는 리키 파울러와 같은 젊은 미국 선수들의 성장 가능성을 높게 봤다.

톰스는 "외국 선수들도 물론 잘하지만 미국 선수들도 곧 만개할 것"이라며 "한명만 첫 우승을 하면 다른 선수들도 자신들이 할 수 있다는 걸 느끼고 우승하게 될 것"이라고 강조했다.

반면 더스틴 존슨(미국)은 "지난 10년을 돌이켜보면 미국 선수들은 꽤 좋은 성적을 거뒀다"며 그다지 신경쓰지 않는 모습을 보이기도 했다.

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