Tiger My Best is Yet to Come

By Brian HewittAugust 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Not too many questions left now that Tiger Woods has convincingly beaten the field and the heat at an outdoor convection oven called Southern Hills.
 
The occasion here was the 89th PGA Championship. And Woods chose it to commandeer his 13th major championship. It marked his fifth win of 2007 and assured his ninth Player of the Year selection by his peers.
 
At 31 years of age Woods now trails Jack Nicklaus by just five in total career major championship victories. The discussion on the surpassing of that mark centers only on when not if.
 
It says here Woods will have 20 majors by his 40th birthday.
 
It also says here that Woods is a better player today than he was in his seminal 2000 run when he won nine PGA TOUR events including three majors.
 
How dare I?
 
Lets start with putting. Many great players will tell you they putted their best in their late teens and early 20s. Phil Mickelson made everything he looked at before his 25th birthday. Sergio Garcia ranked fourth in putting on Tour seven years ago. Now the flat stick has stalled the arc of a career that was once a comet.
 
But after playing with Woods on Saturday, a day on which Woods shot 69 to his 74, the flinty Scott Verplank said Woods was the best putter Ive ever seen, bar none.
 
Woods ability to be as long as he wants to be off the tee whenever he wants to be has, for years, obscured the fact that he plays small ball'100 yards and in'arguably better than anybody who ever lived.
 
Talent, Phil Mickelson said early Sunday at Southern Hills when asked what makes Woods so good.
 
Its just that the talent now is more refined, more controlled, more harnessed. Physically, Woods people will tell you, he is more fit today than he was in 2000. And they will privately tell you how much Woods bristles at the suggestion that Vijay Singh, or anybody else, outworks him in the gym.
 
Woods was pressed this week to explain why a player of Ernie Els stature would virtually concede this championship to Woods before Saturday nightfall. Initially Woods wanted no part of the question on the eve of the final round. Finally he said this: Maybe because Ive won 12 majors, maybe.
 
This reply offered a rare glimpse into Woods understanding of just how much he knows hes gotten inside the heads of everybody trying to unhorse him. The rest of the best players in the world didnt hold Woods in this kind of awe in 2000 mainly because he hadnt kicked this much sand in their faces.
 
Sure, you can make the case for 2000 being an acme for Woods if for no other reason than Woods winning margins of 15 and 8 at the U.S. Open and British Open, respectively. But Tiger circa 2007 lipped out for a 62 and had to settle for a 63 Saturday at Southern Hills, missing by a dimple the lowest single round in major championship history. Woods lowest round in any 2000 major was the 65 he shot at Pebble Beach in the first round of the U.S. Open.
 
Was Tiger a better driver of the golf ball in 2000?
 
He was more accurate.
 
But if you think about it, that was almost an equipmental generation ago. As Peter Kostis, one of the best swing analysts in the game, has pointed out repeatedly the driver has become a boutique club now for the long-hitters among the top players. Hoylake last year at the British and Southern Hills this week proved to Woods he doesnt need the big dog to keep strangers out of his front yard. And that may be the scariest difference of all between now and seven years ago.
 
There is no room for debate when it comes to experience. Woods simply has more of it than he did seven years ago. Ive played a lot of tournaments starting at a very young age, he said this week. And Ive had to deal with that pressure beforeyou learn what it takes.
 
If Woods was sewing wild oats off the course in 2000, we never saw or heard about it publicly. But we know now, because he freely tells us, how complete he feels being a husband and a father.
 
Woods began separating himself from the field Sunday at Southern Hills with a short birdie putt on No. 7 followed by a long birdie putt from the fringe on No. 8. That moved him to 9-under with only Els--four back thanks to four birdies in his first 10 holes--giving serious chase.
 
Austin and Els would both draw to within one midway through the back nine before Woods bounced back from a three-putt bogey on 14 with a 12-foot birdie putt on 15 to hike his lead back to two. Neither Els nor Austin would get any closer. The drama was brief. Wood carded 69 and won by a couple.
 
In the end, Woods videogenic conquest of torrid Tulsa reduced the rest of this PGA to a series of YouTube short clips:
 
John Dalys from-the-heels Thursday 67; U.S. Open champion Angel Cabreras 10 on the par 3 6th in the first round; Masters champion Zach Johnson missing the cut; Boo Weekleys aw shucks Saturday 65; Sergio Garcias DQ for signing an incorrect scorecard; Englishman Simon Dysons sweet Sunday 64; Woody Austins daily protestations that the media calls him a loose cannon when he slams a club and Woods a fiery competitor when he does the same.
 
And finally it was time to ask The Man himself if he thought he was a better player now than he was seven years ago.
 
By far, Woods said without hesitation, adding that experience was the main thing. Hes always learning.
 
Ill say the same thing again seven years from now, he said matter-of-factly.
 
Any other questions?
 
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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

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    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

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    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

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    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

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    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

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    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

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