This week that happens to be Tiger Woods. It could have been Phil Mickelson, of course, or Vijay Singh. Ill give you my first choice right here at the top ' Woods. But you see what I mean ' he won just last week, so the exploits of Tiger are firmly in the minds eye. Going back over the course of this season, though, he has been more consistent than the other two. And since he missed the cut back at the EDS Byron Nelson back in May, he hasnt finished worse than fourth in seven outings.
But let me say this ' the man is unbelievable when it comes down to making his strokes count to the ultimate. His putting is off sometimes, his driving is off sometimes, at times he doesnt hit his irons close to the pins ' but he is always, always in it the mix. He gets the maximum amount of pop out of every tournament. He, more than any golfer I can think of, has avoided more cuts with a birdie on the 18th hole. Like they used to say of Nicklaus, when he plays well, he wins easily. When he just plays so-so, he still wins more than his share. And when he plays poorly (for him), he still has a chance to win.
Woods has won five times this year. Tiger showed why he is a great grinder at his first victory this year, the Buick Invitational. He certainly didnt play exceptionally well the final 18 holes, in fact he hit a terrible iron shot at 18. Remember when he fanned the iron that just happened to squirt off way to the right? But he still won by three. Tiger just refused to let anyone near him.
At Doral, he defeated Mickelson in another battle of old-fashioned intestinal fortitude? He defeated Chris DiMarco in a Masters playoff when he was limping at the end ' but still clung to the green jacket like a nasty pit bull. He won the British Open when he was hitting on all cylinders. And he won Sunday when ' again ' he gritted his teeth and just willed the victory to come to him.
Singh, IMHO, is No. 2 here. Singh defeated Ernie Els in the second tournament of the year ' the Sony Open. He won playoffs in Houston over John Daly and at Wachovia over Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk. And he won at the Buick Open when he had to overcome a hard-charging Woods, among others.
Mickelson is in my No. 3 spot, simply because he hasnt been as consistent as Woods or Singh. He won at Phoenix and Pebble Beach, beat Arjun Atwal, Rich Beem, Jose Maria Olazabal and Brandt Jobe in a marathon at the BellSouth, and then broke out of a clutch of players to win the PGA with a brilliant pitch at the final hole.
To say that Mickelson has not had as excellent a season as Tiger and Vijay is certainly not to say that he has had a poor season. It just hasnt been as great a year as the other two.
Woods has been incredibly consistent in the 17 events he has played. Five wins, three seconds and two thirds, 11 times in the top 10. And, he is the leading money winner.
Singh, as usual, has been the workhorse of the three. Hes played in 24 events, and finished in the top 25 an impressive 21 times. He has four wins, two seconds and three thirds.
Mickelson has also won four times, that in 18 tournaments. But its either been a W or nothing, it seems. He had the second-place finish to Woods at Doral, but his next-highest non-winning finish is a T7 at Wachovia.
Dont read this to mean he hasnt played spectacular golf in streaks this year, though. He had a 60 in Phoenix, a 62 in the first round at Spyglass - the hardlest course in the Pebble Beach rotation - and 64s at the Bob Hope and Doral. Hes trying to learn a little strategy and a little different short game from Rick Smith and Dave Pelz. At 35, he has changed much of his game since he was in his 20s. And in his 20s he was still good enough to win 13 times.
There are still 12 tournaments remaining in this year, and you want to bet that the win totals of these three doesnt bulge even further? They have been the three bright spots in an unusually bright year. Players from around the world have emulated Singh and won in the U.S. But Woods, Singh and Mickelson have been something special. Theyre the top of the pyramid, and then you have the pyramid.
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