By Steve Keating
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (Reuters) – Over a 23-year professional career there is little in the golf world Tiger Woods has not seen or courses he has not played.
But this week will provide a rare new experience for the 42-year-old as he prepares for the 100th PGA Championship and his first competitive round at a steamy Bellerive Country Club.
Named for Louis St. Ange De Bellerive, the last French Governor in North America, the club was founded in 1897 and they have been playing the “Green Monster of Ladue” at its current location since 1960.
A visit to Bellerive does not trigger happy memories for Woods, though, with injury and tragedy having conspired to keep him from challenging the leafy parkland course.
In 2008 when Bellerive hosted the BMW Championship Woods was dealing with knee injuries and in 2001 the World Golf Championship was canceled due to the events of 9/11, Woods recalling how a contemplative 17-hour drive home to Florida changed his outlook on the sport and life.
“I literally haven’t set foot on this golf course since that week in 2001,” said Woods, following a rain interrupted practice round on Tuesday. “Didn’t get up here pre-British Open, and yesterday I took the day off.
“So today we only got in five holes and didn’t really get a chance to see a whole lot.
“I’ll have to do some more homework tomorrow and get a good feel for what’s going on for the rest of the week.
“I was recovering from a surgery in 2008 and we all know what happened in 2001.”
With 79 career PGA Tour wins and 12 international victories, Woods has shown that he possesses the ability and skill to win on all manner of courses and in any conditions.
But a closer look at his haul indicates the former world number one has his happy hunting grounds with nearly half of his PGA titles plundered from five courses.
He has eight WGC victories at Akron’s Firestone Country Club, eight from the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, seven at Torrey Pines, five Memorial titles at Muirfield Village and four Green Jackets from Augusta National.
While familiarity can breed success Woods insists that this week form and conditions will be more important than experience.
Seeking a record-equaling fifth PGA Championship and his first major since 2008, Woods arrives in St. Louis fit and confident after an outstanding run at the British Open title three weeks ago where he finished in a tie for sixth spot.
“Right now it doesn’t really favour anyone because it’s playing so soft,” said Woods. “If anything, it favours a guy who hits the ball high because we’re not going to get any run, it’s not going to dry out the rest of the week.
“It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be wet and, fortunately, I’m one of the guys who hits the ball high and gets the ball up in the air, and you just need to get the ball out there.”
(Editing by Ken Ferris)