Woods will be the man to beat

Woods will be the man to beat

The American world number one overhauled Irishman Padraig Harrington to triumph by four strokes, claiming his 70th career victory on the circuit and his second in successive weeks.

For the fourth time this season, Woods will go into a major in winning form but he is yet to add to his Grand Slam tally of 14. His last major victory came in the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, where he beat fellow American Rocco Mediate in a gripping 19-hole play-off before spending the next eight months on the sidelines recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.

Should Woods fail to win his fifth PGA Championship title at Hazeltine next week, however, he would still regard his 2009 campaign as a huge success. "Just being able to come back and play and be successful again has been a tremendous step in the right direction," he said.

Hazeltine last staged the PGA Championship in 2002, when American Rich Beem held off a charging Woods by one shot to win his only major title. The par-72 course has been lengthened by more than 300 yards since then and defending champion Harrington expects a tough but straightforward challenge.

"It's a solid golf course and they'll be asking for a lot of good, solid play that week," said the Irishman, who clinched last year's title by two shots at Oakland Hills.

Former US Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa pulled out of the Championship because of a lingering wrist injury.

The 29-year-old, who also withdrew from the US Open in June and last month's British Open, has been replaced in the field by American Bob Estes.

Immelman, winner of the 2008 Masters, has experienced discomfort in his left wrist for several months.