GOLF NEWS - Tiger Woods, playing back-to-back weeks for the first time this year, gets a taste of US Open conditions when the PGA Tour's BMW Championship tees off Thursday in suburban Chicago.
Reigning Masters champion Woods is a five-time winner of the event but hasn't played at new host course Olympia Fields since the 2003 US Open.
It's the second event in the US PGA playoffs, with only 30 players from a field of 70 advancing to next week's season-ending Tour Championship, which Woods won in 2018.
"The golf course is set up more like a US Open than a regular tour event," Woods said. "But these are the playoffs. It's supposed to be hard."
It also could be the final tuneup event for Woods before next month's US Open at Winged Foot.
Woods ranks 57th in FedEx Cup season points, meaning he needs at least a top-six finish to advance.
As there's no cut this week, everyone gets points, so he likely needs a top-four effort to reach the showdown at East Lake in Atlanta.
"I have to play well. I have to earn my way to East Lake," Woods said.
"I haven't done so yet and need a big week this week in order to advance. If I don't, I go home. This is a big week for me. I'm looking forward to getting out there."
World number 17 Woods, a 15-time major winner, struggled to a share of 58th last week at the Northern Trust, his worst result in three starts since returning last month from the tour's Covid-19 shutdown despite the aid of rain-softened greens.
"That won't be the case this week. Par will be at a premium," Woods said. "It'll be about putting the ball in play and going from there.
"I have to get the ball in play here and put the ball in all the right spots. This rough is only going to get tougher and the greens are going to get fast and hard."
Woods, 44, seeks his 83rd career US PGA victory to break the all-time record he now shares with Sam Snead.
This is the third event in four weeks for Woods, who would play three weeks in a row for the first time since 2018 should he make the Tour Championship.
"Getting used to competing again," Woods said. "I've been a little bit rusty in that regard."
Woods looks forward to defending his Masters green jacket in November at Augusta National, the Masters having been postponed from April due to Covid-19.
But he will miss the roar of spectators, Augusta National having said no patrons will be able to attend this year in a virus safety move.
"That's just a continuation of what we have. We've been fortunate not to have any real big outbreaks on the tour," Woods said.
"It's going to be different without 40,000 people there. Without the roars that are going to go up, that has changed. Augusta will be very different. This will be a fun Masters and I'm looking forward to defending."