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THE OPEN-like Westchester Country Club might offer Woods solace

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HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) _ Unable to win the real thing last week at Southern Hills, Tiger Woods looks forward to playing the U.S. Open-like course at the Westchester Country Club.

Woods has avoided the Buick Classic all but one year since turning pro because it often was played the week before the Open. Woods usually takes that week to polish his game.

``To me, this golf course with its difficulty, how they like to set it up right before the Open _ high rough, fast, hard greens _ it's great preparation,'' Woods said.

But playing it the week before the Open ``would wear me out,'' Woods said.

No major championship is at stake starting Thursday at the Buick Classic, but Woods said he has learned to get over disappointments like last week when he ended his streak of winning four major titles. Victories in regular tour events are easier to come by than in majors because of their sheer number, Woods said, but they are precious just the same.

``There's such a high when you are playing in a major championship and you got to put that aside and say, You know what?'' Woods said. ``There's just a bigger high this week because it's a whole new week. I take great pride in what I do and I am going to go out there and give it everything I have got to try and get myself in contention and hopefully to win.''

Woods has played twice before at Westchester. In 1994, as an amateur, he missed the cut. In 1997, he finished tied for 43rd.

Though short by modern-day PGA Tour standards at 6,722 yards, the Westchester Country Club is narrow and thickly wooded, with ankle-deep rough and undulating greens.

Woods said he only hit his driver four times off the tee during Wednesday's pro-am. He also used his 3-wood on several holes on which he will probably use a 2-iron during the tournament.

``I played a little more aggressive off the tees just to see where it would end up,'' Woods said after a casual practice round of 2-under 69.

The 2000 Buick Classic champion, Dennis Paulson, said most of the best players are in the field the week after the Open because they like the Westchester Country Club.

``Everybody wants to play a U.S. Open course going into the U.S. Open, but no one wants to go get beat up two weeks in a row, especially the week after the U.S. Open,'' Paulson said.

The strength of the field is a ``testament to the golf course,'' Paulson said.

Woods on Wednesday laughed off a question that an Achilles' tendon problem accounted for 12th-place tie at the U.S. Open at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. That broke a streak of four major championships won by Woods, starting with the 2000 U.S. Open.

``Only thing injured is my pride,'' Woods said.

He showed no signs of favoring either leg as he played in Wednesday's pro-am in a group that included Andrew Giuliani, the 15-year-old son of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The elder Giuliani asked at the last minute to insert his son in his place because the mayor has a sore foot.

Andrew Giuliani was credited with an 85.

Divots: Nine of the last 16 Buick Classics have gone to playoffs, including the last three. ... Woods said he agreed that Stewart Cink did the right thing at last week's Open by putting out on the 72nd hole, though Cink missed from 18 inches and could have been in a playoff for the title won by Retief Goosen. Woods said, however, he would have marked his ball and checked the lie for a spike mark or other imperfection. ``Retief was 12 feet from the hole with a chance to 2-putt for the U.S. Open. Give him the stage,'' Woods said.
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