Tigers Woods believes he will have to beat the strongest field in golf if he is to win his 15th major at this week’s USPGA Championship at Hazeltine.The 33-year-old, who is bidding for his fourth USPGA title, has won his last two events on the PGA Tour.But with almost all of the world’s top 100 set to feature at Hazeltine, the world number one said: “This is the deepest field we get.”If you win this championship you have beaten the best field in all of golf.”Woods has won five tournaments since returning from an eight-month absence in February following reconstructive knee surgery.
But he has not won a major in 2009 and missed the cut at the Open.”It’s been a great year either way, for me to come back and play as well as I’ve done,” added Woods, who has not gone through a year without a major victory since 2004. “I don’t think any of us would have thought I could have won this many events this year.”I’m very proud of not only winning the golf tournaments but how consistent I’ve played. The one bad event I’ve had was missing the cut at the Open.”Woods is in pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles, while his victory last Sunday at the World Golf Championship took his tally to 70 PGA titles – 12 behind Sam Snead’s record.”Those are numbers that are pretty mind-boggling,” said Woods.
“To get up that high, those records don’t happen in the course of a few years. It’s an entire career.”Wood has been paired with defending champion Padraig Harrington and Rich Beem for the first two rounds of the tournament.Beem won the USPGA when it was last held in Hazeltime in 2002, while Woods defeated Harrington by four shots to win last weekend’s World Golf Championship.Harrington started the final round three shots ahead of playing partner Woods but the Irishman’s challenge ended with a triple bogey on the 16th, a hole that saw both men warned for slow play.”The great thing about golf is there’s always next week,” said Harrington as he looked forward to defending his title.”That’s the fantastic thing. I didn’t sleep great Sunday night. I was tired but I struggled to get to sleep and I woke up early still thinking about it.
“But the minute I hit the practice round here I’m thinking about the USPGA. It’s all about the USPGA.”Meanwhile, Woods has denied reports he has been fined by the PGA Tour for remarks he made about European Tour chief referee John Paramor, who issued the slow play warning on Sunday, saying he got “in the way of a great battle”.”I’ve heard from the Tour and there was no fine,” Woods added. “That was an erroneous report.”