AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - If Tiger Woods could single out a venue most likely to inspire his game, he could do no better than Firestone Country Club which is hosting this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods has piled up a record seven titles on the heavily tree-lined layout and is aiming to replicate that form over the next four days as he also aims to build momentum for next week’s PGA Championship, the final major of the year.
“I’ve had times where I haven’t played well at all coming into this event and for some reason it turns it around,” the world number one told reporters on Wednesday on a damp, overcast afternoon at Firestone.
“And sometimes I’ve played great and it’s continued. This is one of those courses where, over the years, I just have felt very comfortable.”
A 14-times major champion, Woods has recorded a staggering 11 top-10 finishes in 13 appearances at the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event, including 10 in a row.
”I’ve done it all different ways, that’s the thing,“ said the 37-year-old American. ”Some years I’ve striped it and have really played well, and other years I’ve hit it all over the lot and had to be creative.
“I’ve chipped and putted and holed out. It’s been such a mixed bag, and I think that’s what happens when you win that many times. You can’t always do it the same way.”
Though Woods has triumphed a season-high four times on the 2013 PGA Tour, he arrived at Firestone frustrated after a wasted opportunity to win the British Open 12 days ago.
He ended up in a tie for sixth at Muirfield in Scotland where his bid for a first major in five years unraveled in the final round as he closed with a three-over-par 74.
”I had it, I had a chance to win and didn’t quite get it done on Sunday,“ Woods said. ”There were so many positives to the week, how well I hit it and how well I played.
”The only difference is I just didn’t get the feel of those greens the last few days, and I didn’t make the adjustments.
“That’s my fault for not making the adjustments. You’ve got to make the adjustments and I didn’t do it, and consequently I didn’t win the tournament.”
Since that disappointing Muirfield finish, Woods enjoyed some vacation time in the Bahamas with his two children before playing a practice round on Tuesday at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, venue for next week’s PGA Championship.
”I was with the kids, and we were just having a great time,“ he said. ”I got away from the game and just had a whole bunch of fun with them.
“Physically I‘m good. I don’t have as much energy as (his children) Sam and Charlie, but I feel pretty good.”
Asked how well Firestone would serve as preparation for next week at Oak Hill, Woods replied: ”It is very similar, straightforward, right in front of you.
”This golf course, I don’t think, is as hard or as difficult as Oak Hill, especially with the green complexes. The green complexes are a little bit more severe at Oak Hill.
“But overall it’s old-school golf. It’s just right in front of you, no hidden tricks out there. You’ve just got to go out there and really hit the ball well.”
Woods will play the first two rounds at Firestone in the company of exciting 21-year-old Japanese Hideki Matsuyama, who also tied for sixth at the British Open and has already triumphed three times on his home tour.
”It’s going to be fun,“ said Woods. ”I’ve never played with him. I’ve seen him out here hitting balls, and I just did a little interview with Rory (McIlroy) who played with him the first two days at the Open Championship.
“He (McIlroy) says he (Matsuyama) hits it great, hits it long and he’s in that next generation of young kids coming up. He’s 21. Rory is an old guy now,” smiled Woods, referring to the 24-year-old Northern Irishman.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden