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Woods, Koepka embrace attention as PGA superpowers

Tiger Woods said Tuesday he wakes up feeling older than his age more often than not.

But he arrived at the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black knowing his best is enough to win golf’s grandest events.

“In order to win this one, driving is going to be at the forefront with the rough as lush as it is,” Woods said Tuesday in Farmingdale, N.Y., where he shoots for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish in a major. “The fairways are plenty wide because it’s wet. You’ve got to hit it not only straight but hit it far.

Tiger Woods
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“As the week goes on and the greens dry out, the majority of the greens are elevated. Trying to get an upspin to the ball to get it elevated, you’ve got to be in the fairway to do that.”

Woods, 43, has finished in the top 30 in each of his six starts in 2019, including winning his 15th career major at the Masters last month. If the ball rolls his way again at Bethpage — as it did when he won the U.S. Open in 2002 — Woods could leave this course on Sunday ranked No. 1 in the world. He’ll start the event at No. 6 and, in his words, “relevant again” alongside defending champion Brooks Koepka.

“The players that’ve had the most success on Tour — NFL football player, you’re in the Hall of Fame after nine years. If you play out here only nine years, you haven’t really done that well. Out here, you’re measured in decades,” Woods said. “Arnold Palmer played in 50 straight Masters. Because of the nature of the sport, you’re able to hang on a lot longer and still be relevant.

“When Jack (Nicklaus) played his final PGA in 2000, I played with him. He said he played with Gene Sarazen in his final PGA. The fact that golf can span nearly 60-70 years in playing careers, that’s what makes it so special. Now, Brooksy look like a young me? I was never that big. I was 130 pounds. We’re both able to generate speed. I did it through whip and timing. Brooksy is just pure power. He’s an athlete.”

Brooks Koepka
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Koepka, 29, tees off with Woods and Francesco Molinari at 8:24 a.m. ET on Thursday. He’ll be attempting to become the first player since Woods to repeat the PGA Championship. Woods did it in 2006 and 2007.

Woods and Koepka have finished 1-2 in the past two majors — Woods’ win at Augusta in April and last year’s PGA at Bellerive. Koepka enters with the longest streak of subpar rounds in majors at nine, followed by Jon Rahm (eight) and Woods (seven)

“There’s a big age difference there,” Koepka said of starting his seventh PGA Championship start. “He’s a little bit older. I don’t see it as a rivalry. It’s just golf. It’s just really been the last couple of years, I don’t see it as a rivalry. Although it is fun to play with him. Best player to ever play the game. It’s exciting more to me. I’m really looking forward to playing with him.

“It’s good to have Tiger back winning majors. That atmosphere, when he was done, was pretty special.”

Koepka said he doesn’t “fear” Woods, because they aren’t planning to fight.

“He’s not going to knock my teeth in. What’s there to be afraid of?”

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)

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