Originally created 05/17/02

Woods returns to tournament for fourth and perhaps last time

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Tiger Woods' fourth appearance at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open might be his last.

Woods, the tournament winner two of the last three years, opens defense of his title Friday, and a victory this weekend does not guarantee a return trip.

Woods will face a scheduling conflict between the Byron Nelson Classic and the Deutsche Bank in 2003.

"It's going to be one of those difficult decisions, certainly, because my loyalty has been to Mr. Nelson and also the wonderful time I've had here in Germany as well," Woods said. "It's going to be a tough decision to make."

Woods rallied from 10 strokes off the lead after two rounds to beat New Zealand's Michael Campbell by four strokes in a dramatic finish last year.

Woods holed a 7-iron from 175 yards for an eagle-2 at the 13th hole in last year's final round to highlight his comeback.

The St. Leon-Rot Golf Club has undergone extensive renovations since last year. The first and 18th holes remain unchanged, but all other holes have been altered. The course will play to a par 72 at almost 7,300 yards.

"They've made it longer, the fairways are narrower and the rough's up," Woods said. "The course is definitely more difficult, harder and firmer. The greens are not quite up to speed yet, but I'm sure they'll be cut and be back up to normal."

Woods said the course was set up "a little like our courses at home except our greens are a little quicker."

John Daly also is in the field, coming off a ninth-place finish at the Benson and Hedges International.

U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen played nine practice holes with Woods on Wednesday and said the renovations favor long hitters such as Woods and Daly.

"It's probably better than the old design," Goosen said. "Driving is going to be very important. You will have to hit driver on pretty much every hole - us anyway. I don't know about Tiger or Daly."

Darren Clarke, one of nine European Ryder Cup players in the field, is doubtful after tearing a thigh muscle Monday when he bent over to unhook a trout he caught in a river in southern England.

After struggling through nine holes of practice Wednesday, Clarke went for treatment and was told it was extremely unlikely that he'd be fit enough for this week's tournament.

"It's improved a lot in a day, though," he said. "I'm going to wait until the morning to make a decision."


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