Originally created 11/21/02

Woods eyes victory in Japan



MIYAZAKI, Japan -- His knee is feeling better, and Tiger Woods is ready for a tournament that also features Sergio Garcia, David Duval and Darren Clarke.

"It's a great field here," Woods said Wednesday. "There are some great champions in the past and I'd like to add my name to that list."

The $1.65 million Dunlop Phoenix is the third tournament in Japan for Woods. He played at the Casio World Open in 1998 and the World Cup in 2001.

The Dunlop Phoenix will be his first tournament since the Tour Championship in Atlanta this month.

"My knee is feeling good, a lot better than it did at the Tour Championship," Woods said. "My goal here is to win."

Woods has said that ice and medication have improved his left knee as he enters a busy stretch of his season. He complained of a sore knee after the Tour Championship, saying it bothered him most of the year and stems from surgery he had while in college.

Woods, who this season won the Masters and the U.S. Open, described this year as one of his best.

"It's been a great year," Woods said. "Anytime you can win a major it's great, and I've won two along with six other tournaments so I have no complaints."

Woods tuned up for Thursday's opening round in Wednesday's pro-am in a foursome that included Japanese golfer Isao Aoki, pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Seattle Mariners and retired tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka.

"We had a great time and they even managed to hit the ball straight a couple of times," Woods said.

Garcia said the presence of Woods provides added motivation.

"There's no doubt that when Tiger is in the field there's added motivation," said Garcia, winner of the Mercedes Championships.

Garcia said the key will be to hit the ball straight.

"In 1999 it was important to hit it straight and now it's even more important," Garcia said. "They've added some more bunkers and the fairways are very narrow so it's a very difficult course."

Duval, who won last year's Dunlop Phoenix in a playoff, said he has been more focused since the Ryder Cup and is looking forward to defending his title.

"I may have to make some adjustments because of the added bunkers," Duval said. "But I've been pleased with the concentration I've had since the Ryder Cup."