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Woods heads to Ireland to begin preparations for B
by Associated Press

WOODS, 26, has not played competitively since winning last month?s U.S. Open. He was forced to withdraw from the Western Open in Illinois last week because of flu-like symptoms.

Woods had planned to make the Western Open his final tournament warm-up for the 131st British Open ? the third of the year?s four major championships ? but is not worried that his game could be rusty at Muirfield next week.

?Not at all,? he said on his official website. ?I took off three weeks before the PGA Championship in 1999 and won. In 1997, I took four weeks off after winning the Masters and won the Byron Nelson. I?ve won different ways.?

The reigning Masters champion, who became only the fifth player to win the first two majors of the season with his U.S. Open triumph at Bethpage State Park?s Black Course, was unable to explain his ailment of last week.

?I shake a lot of hands and, on top of that, I have a lot of allergies that break down my system,? he said.

?It could have been any number of things that caught up with me.

?I just wasn?t feeling all that good. I spent most of this week recuperating but was able to practice a little bit.?

On Tuesday, Woods travels to Ireland with his good friend and neighbor Mark O?Meara to complete his British Open preparations.

The pair will be the guests of local businessmen J.P. McManus and Dermott Desmond and plan to play a few rounds of golf and get in some fly-fishing ? just as they have done in the build-up to the British Open over the past few years.

Woods and O?Meara then move on to Scotland and to Muirfield, where Woods has never played before, for the British Open which takes place from July 18-21.

The world?s top-ranked player, who enjoys playing links-course golf after competing in five British Opens as a professional and in two as an amateur since 1995, is looking forward to next week?s challenge.

?Going over there (to Britain), it?s totally different golf,? he said. ?It?s not like you can play and prepare the same way over here.?

Woods, who romped to victory by eight shots in the 2000 British Open at St Andrews, has studied videos of past Muirfield British Opens to get an idea of what to expect.

He has especially looked at footage of the last British Open to be held at Muirfield, Nick Faldo?s one-shot victory over American John Cook in 1992, but is expecting course conditions to be very different for this year?s championship.

?They?ve gotten so much rain over there (in Britain), it?s not going to play the same,? he said. ?They?ve had a very wet summer and the rough will be a lot more lush.?

Should Woods win at Muirfield, he could complete a single-season grand slam with victory at next month?s U.S. PGA Championship.

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