Woods struggles continues at Grand Slam

Wednesday, November 22nd 2006, 6:29 am

By: News On 6

POIPU BEACH, Hawaii (AP) _ Tiger Woods was happy with his first and last holes. It was just the other 16 that the world's No. 1 golfer could have done without.

Woods scrambled to a 2-under 70 and was three shots behind Jim Furyk heading in to Wednesday's final round of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

``No. 1 and 18 were solid,'' Woods said. ``The other 16 holes were just not very good. It was frustrating.''

The defending champion has won the exclusive four-man Grand Slam a record six straight times in seven appearances. He also had problems before the event in China and Japan.

``It was not just the driver, it was everything. Just a normal 100-yard sand wedge, all the way up to the driver,'' Woods said. ``I've been kind of fighting a little bit.''

In Shanghai, Woods' streak of stroke-play victories was snapped at six after finishing two shots behind South Korea's Yang Yong-eun in the HSBC Champions.

On Sunday, Woods squandered a three-stroke lead with six holes left, then lost to Padraig Harrington on the second hole of a playoff at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.

``I struggled in China. I struggled in Japan. (But) I was just able to hang in there and give myself chances in those two tournaments,'' Woods said. ``It's kind of the way I've been hitting it. It's just been all over the place. It's just been a struggle.''

Woods is coming off a spectacular eight-win season, including victories at the British Open and PGA Championship while finishing atop the money list with nearly $10 million.

Woods had five birdies in his opening Grand Slam round, but also had three bogeys.

He got off to a birdie-birdie start but missed a 6-footer for par on the fourth hole to drop to 1 under. After he birdied Nos. 6 and 7, Woods never was able to find his groove. Several of his drives sailed right, landing in bunkers, the rough, near cart paths and trees.

On the par-5 No. 18, he blasted the drive 345 yards and hit an 8-iron from 185 yards to within 18 feet. He two putted for birdie to finish at 2 under.

Furyk shot a 5-under 67 and has a one-stroke lead over U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy heading into the final day of the 36-hole event.

Woods' poor work off the tees even caught his opponents off guard.

``Tiger was a little erratic at times where he drove it in the rough quite a bit,'' Furyk said. ``It's difficult to make a bunch of birdies coming out of that long Bermuda rough.''

Great players, however, can have a bad day and still shoot a good number to keep themselves in the tournament and give themselves an opportunity to win, he said.

Furyk, the world's No. 2 golfer behind Woods, showed his consistency, composure and masterful putting. Furyk closed with two birdies, giving him five on the day. He was the only player with a bogey-free round.

The 2003 U.S. Open champion's 10-foot birdie on the 225-yard No. 17, moved him to 4 under for a one-stroke lead over Ogilvy, who overshot the green and recorded his only bogey of the round.

``Jim's just the best scorer in the world,'' Ogilvy said. ``He just seems to get the most out of every round he ever plays, which is why he's the second-best player in the world.''

Mike Weir was at 71 in the 36-hole event reserved for the winners of this year's majors.

With Woods claiming two majors and Masters winner Phil Mickelson dropping out of the event, Furyk and Weir each earned their second invite to Kauai based on their performances in the four majors.

Furyk won the 2003 Grand Slam, beating Weir by eight strokes.

Ogilvy, the youngest player in the field at 29, took a one-stroke lead by sinking a 5-footer on the par-4 fifth. His putt was set up by a strong wedge shot from 85 yards.

The Aussie maintained a one-stroke lead over Furyk until No. 17.

The winner Wednesday will earn $500,000 of the $1.25 million purse and no one is counting Woods out, including himself.

Last year, Woods closed with an 8-under 64 to win by seven strokes over Mickelson, despite losing six pounds because of a stomach virus.

``As poorly as I executed today, to only be three back, I'm very fortunate,'' Woods said. ``I still have a chance to win the tournament.''

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