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Woods changes putter for historic British Open bid

Tiger Woods gets helps on the greens from his great friend Mark O'Meara.
Tiger Woods gets helps on the greens from his great friend Mark O'Meara.
  • Tiger Woods forsakes old putter as he bids for third straight win at St.Andrews
  • World number Woods has used the putter for 13 of his 14 major wins
  • Woods is without a win since being embroiled in a sex scandal
  • Fellow American Phil Mickelson is challenging Woods for top spot in rankings

(CNN) -- Tiger Woods will have a new putter in his hands as he bids to make golfing history by becoming the first player to win the British Open at the same venue three times in a row after earlier triumphs at St.Andrews in 2000 and 2005.

The troubled world number one begins his challenge at the home of golf on Thursday morning as he tees off with England's in-form Justin Rose and Colombia's Camilo Villegas and will have a new addition to his golf bag.

Woods told gathered reporters Tuesday that he was forsaking the club which had helped him to 13 of his 14 majors in favor of a heavier putter to tackle the greens of the Old Course.

"I've always struggled on slower greens and the one I've gone to this week comes off faster and I've had to make very little adjustment," he said.

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Woods has played three practice rounds in windy conditions on the Scottish coast, having arrived on Sunday.

The American took part in a charity pro-am event in Ireland at the beginning of last week and would normally have gone straight to St.Andrews, but instead flew home to see his two children.

Woods again refused to comment on reports of a divorce settlement with his Swedish wife Elin.

He went into self-imposed exile from golf at the beginning of the year after revelations of marital infidelity provoked unfavorable headlines.

Facing persistent questioning from reporters on his private life, Woods claimed it would have no effect on his performance this week.

"(The scandal) doesn't impact it at all. I'm here to play a championship," Woods said.

"This is the Open Championship at St. Andrews. This is as good as it gets. It's the home of golf. I'm just like every other player in this field."

This is the Open Championship at St. Andrews. This is as good as it gets. It's the home of golf. I'm just like every other player in this field
--Tiger Woods

Woods is without a win since his return to the circuit in April, but has finished shared fourth in both the U.S Masters and the recent U.S. Open.

He told his personal website that despite his winless streak, he was happy with his general game as he bids for a 15th major crown.

"I have been driving it on a string. The club feels so good in my hands," Woods said.

"I went back to my fundamentals with my putting and my stroke feels good."

Woods won at St.Andrews in 2000 by eight shots and five in 2005 but missed the cut in last year's British Open at Turnberry.

Despite being installed as favorite with bookmakers, Woods appears to have lost his aura of invincibility, but three-time major winner Padraig Harrington said that could all change quickly.

"Tiger finishing fourth in a major is considered a failure -- it is amazing what expectations can do because in those two performances he could have won both," he told UK's Press Association.

"But if he comes out and wins, wins, wins then players will be intimidated by him," he added.

European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, second to Woods on the Old Course in 2005, also believes Woods can do a 'three-peat' at St.Andrews if he can use his new putter to good effect.

"It would be the tough guy to bet against him on a course that is entirely suited to his strength, which is putting," he told Press Association.

Woods' great rival Phil Mickelson is second favorite with most odds makers but comes into the tournament off the back of missing the cut in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and a mediocre record at the British Open, with a best of third place in 2004.

Mickelson also has another chance to overtake Woods as world number one, but only a victory and his fifth major title will definitely secure him top spot.