ORLANDO, Fla. -- His thick hair tousled under a visor, Tim Herron slouched into the high-back chair, put his foot up on the table and draped his arms over the back of his head as he assessed the state of his game.
Body language and the actual words made for quite a mismatch.
''I've been grinding pretty hard,'' said Herron, known affectionately as ''Lumpy'' by his peers. He carries a more distinct title for the next four days as defending champion in the Bay Hill Invitational.
Herron has always been a streaky sort. He won the Honda Classic in 1996 for his first of three PGA Tour titles by opening with a 62 and going wire-to-wire. He won the Texas Open a year later with a 64-69 weekend.
And after going without a victory in 1998, he proved in the Bay Hill he really could grind it by squeezing out a sudden-death playoff victory over fellow Minnesota native Tom Lehman.
Getting to the next level -- contending in majors, becoming a serious candidate for the Ryder Cup team -- requires turning those streaks into consistency. Herron figures this year is as good as any to start making inroads, but he's not off to the start he wanted.
''I'm trying to make the game easier,'' he said. ''And I think I learned on the West Coast that you'll never make it easy. It's always going to be a pain in the butt.''
Herron will try to become the first player since Loren Roberts in 1995 to successfully defend his title at Bay Hill. That doesn't figure to be easy, either.
The field for Arnold Palmer's tournament features seven of the top eight players in the world ranking -- only David Duval among those is taking the week off. Topping the list is Tiger Woods, who already has won twice and finished second twice in his first five events.
Woods is fresh off a two-week break following a rigorous West Coast swing in which he played four straight tournaments and contended in every one of them.
''It wears you out when you're in contention a lot,'' Woods said. ''It definitely took a toll on me.''
Two PGA Tour events are played in his adopted home of Orlando, and Woods already has won the Disney Classic twice.
''It would be nice to have both them at the same time,'' he said. ''It would be even more special to win Arnold's tournament, just because he's the King. I've been fortunate enough to win the Byron Nelson and the Memorial (put on by Jack Nicklaus). As prominent as Arnold is, it would be a nice topper.''
Woods also leads a star-studded cast from the Young and the Restless.
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