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Len Ziehm On Golf

Tiger feels better, opens up before teeing off in the BMW Championship

Tiger Woods took to the famed No. 3 course at Medinah on Wednesday and played only nine holes in the Gardner Heidrick Pro-Am, the last pre-tournament event before Thursday’s start of the BMW Championship.

Woods worked only his short game on the back nine, just like he did at last week’s first FedEx Cup Playoff event in New York. In that one he withdrew after a poor first round, citing a mile oblique strain.

Don’t worry, though. A similar scenario isn’t in the forecast at Medinah. At least it wasn’t when Woods addressed the media on a variety of topics after his pro-am round. Here’s the latest update on the ongoing tale of Tiger:

His health: Six days after his WD at The Northern Trust tourney in New York Woods declared his body “way better.’’

“It was nice to take those days off, and I had to just let it calm down and get a bunch of treatment. It feels so much better now,’’ he said.

How that latest injury happened: “Swinging. As I’ve said before, the forces have got to go somewhere, and unfortunately when I make any kind of tweaks and changes to my swing a new body part is aching. I can’t play around the back like I used to, and unfortunately things flare up.’’

Chicago memories: “This is one of the areas that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing over the years. It’s where I made my first cut on the PGA Tour (in the 1995 Western Open at Cog Hill). I’ve had some good memories and some wins (the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships at Medinah) here.’’

Changes to the course: “It’s a lot bigger, a lot longer than I remember. They’ve certainly lengthened it since ’99 and ’06 and when we played here in (the 2012 Ryder Cup). No. 13 is a big hole now, and they’ve moved up 15, so now it’s driveable. Before we were hitting 2-irons down there from the back tee.’’

His planned course in Chicago: “We’re excited about it. The project is still continuing. Still going forward. It (the combined existing courses at Jackson Park and South Shore) is an incredible piece of property. We’re trying to do something that’s unique. One of the things we’ve talked about is that all kids will play for free. That’s something we need to make happen.’’

President’s Cup: Woods is the U.S. captain for the fall matches in Australia and might be a player as well.

“I’m hoping to put myself in the top eight. Right now I’m seed 12th, and I’m trying like hell to make the team on my own. Obviously I have some work to do. I’ve got to play well this week to make that happen.’’

Would you make yourself a captain’s pick: “It would come down to the top eight guys, myself and my vice captains about who the guys will fill the next four slots – whether it’s me and three other guys or just four other guys. Either way, I’m going to Australia.’’

Looking ahead to East Lake: “I’m trying to win this tournament, just like anybody else in the field, and trying to get to East Lake where a lot of things changed for me last year. Hopefully I can make that happen.’’

Woods made it to East Lake, the Atlanta course that hosts The Tour Championship, then won his first tournament since 2008.

The 2020 Ryder Cup: Steve Stricker will captain the U.S. team at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

“Stricks is ready,’’ said Woods. “He’s ready for not only this year (when he’ll be one of Woods’ three vice captains in the President’s Cup) but next year. He’s our guy. All the players out here know him, trust him, have the utmost respect for him. When Stricks speaks, we all listen.’’

Woods begins his bid for the BMW Championship at 11:54 a.m. on Thursday and is paired with C.T. Pan and Billy Horschel in the first round. Tee times begin at 9:15 a.m. and run through 1:;27 p.m., all off the No. 1 tee.

The BMW Championship was part of the original start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs in 2007. Woods won both the BMW Championship and FedEx Cup in both 2007 and 2009. He also won the BMW Championship, then played at Cog Hill, in both of those years.