Fri, Aug 10, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Top golfers deny feeling the heat

BALLSY The mercury is soaring in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but Tiger Woods and the rest of the field are raring to get going, saying the heat will only make the ball fly even farther

AFP , TULSA, OKLAHOMA

Golf's hottest stars vowed the sizzling heat at the 89th PGA Championship will not melt their resolve when it comes to the sweat-drenched success needed to capture the year's last major tournament.

Temperatures were expected to approach 37?C and dip no lower than 27?C at night around Southern Hills Country Club with an excessive heat warning issued for the week by the National Weather Service.

Defending champion Tiger Woods, seeking his 13th major title, said the ball is soaring half a club to a club-length beyond normal due to the heat -- "the ball is flying forever" -- and that a little heat will not affect his focus.

"It's not that bad, just sweating a little bit," Woods said. "I just change gloves more often. That's about it. As far as concentration waning, I don't see how that can ever be a problem."

Perhaps when the signature Southern Hills clock tower starts melting like a timepiece in a Salvador Dali painting or when the greens become a spike-melting surface hotter than the sun, it's a problem.

But given the stance most players took on Tuesday, it will take such extremes for the heat to make a difference to them.

"I've played in hotter conditions and I haven't had a problem," British Open winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland said. "I see it as a factor to be looked after."

"I would say probably it's a little bit of an advantage for me because I climatize well. I play quite a bit in Malaysia where we get quite a bit hotter and stickier than this," he said.

Everyone seemed to have a "hotter than this" tale. US Open champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina said most Latin American golf events are even scorchier than Southern Hills in August.

"I'm used to the hot weather," Cabrera said. "In Latin America it is hotter than it is here now. We just have to drink a lot of water."

Masters champion Zach Johnson was planning on reducing his practice time, the American concerned about fatigue hurting his focus even if Woods was not.

"With all the elements that are going to be thrown at us -- a major, the heat, just the golf, hills -- it's going to require mental discipline and some pretty unbelievable courage to keep focused," Johnson said.

"It's not only going to be a test of golf but a physical and mental test. Dealing with the heat, that's going to be of the utmost importance. I'm not going to wear myself out. I don't want to be out there whacking balls for two hours. It's about staying hydrated, staying rested," he said.

US veteran Phil Mickelson, a three-time major winner, found the happy side of smacking golf balls around a steamy, sun-baked layout.

"I love playing in the heat," Mickelson said. "It loosens your muscles up. You are able to swing a lot more rhythmic. And the ball flies a lot straighter when it's hot because you don't have the resistance. There are a lot more benefits than there are detractions."

World No. 1 Woods ensured himself the favorite's role on Sunday with an eight-stroke victory at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational. He shared second at the Masters and US Opens and 12th at the British Open.

"Watching Tiger last week, he was just so much better than the other guys," South Korean star K.J. Choi said. "He made so many great shots. Although a lot of players have caught up, I think he has still at another level."

Woods has been a bit disappointed at not winning a major.

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