Appreciating Tiger Woods

By Mercer BaggsAugust 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill. -- I try and give people the benefit of the doubt, like, Maybe Terrell Owens really is injured and can't practice. Or, Maybe Floyd Landis really does have the testosterone of 10 men. Or, Maybe Jim Furyk really could have such a hot wife if he wasnt a professional golfer.
 
And so I thought, yet again, Saturday night, Maybe somebody really can beat Tiger Woods when hes leading after 54 holes of a major championship.
 
Fool. Fool. Damn fool.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods captured his third Wanamaker Trophy this week at Medinah.
Hes not going to win them all, Geoff Ogilvy said after the third round. Hes pretty special, but hes not unbeatable.
 
In this situation, Geoff, yes, yes he is. Woods is now a perfect 12-0 when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major. 12 and 0. The other 69 men who made the cut this week have barely combined to have 12 such opportunities.
 
Some get annoyed when we in the media slather Woods in praise. But, without question, the man deserves it. He deserves all of it. The greatest of the great make extreme difficulty seem simple. Thats what Woods is doing.
 
Woods is now two-thirds of the way to Nicklaus all-time major victories record of 18, arriving at that number in just 10 full seasons on the PGA TOUR ' and three years earlier than Jack.
 
Honestly, Tiger winning 18 appears to be a formality. Assuming that he stays healthy, youve got to give him at least three more green jackets over the next decade, which means he only has to win one more at each of the other three majors to match that mark.
 
I think he can handle that.
 
Tigers not just the most talented player in the world; hes the most complete. They try to 'Tiger proof' courses, but that doesn't work anymore. And as he's displayed at these last two majors, he can adapt his game.
 
He can win at even par; he can win at 24 under. He can win by hitting iron off most every tee; he can win on the longest course in major championship history. He can win in the wind and the rain; he can win in the sun and the shine.
 
He can beat you when youre playing youre best; he can beat you when hes not.
 
Players love to say that they cant worry about what Tiger is doing. I just have to play my own game, they say ' and so many said it once again Saturday evening. But they do have to worry about Tiger, because their game cant beat his game.
 
They should be saying, I need to play my best on Sunday and hope that Tiger gets attacked by a wolverine.
 
All this considered: Is it that improbable to see him doubling his figures, in TOUR victories (51) and major wins (12), over the next 10 years?
 
Not at all, said three-time major winner and Hall of Fame member Nick Price. One-hundred wins, 20-25 majors. Thats entirely possible. How much he wins is (determined by) how long he wants to play.
 
There is one thing that Tiger can do to assure himself of more major victories ' put me on his payroll. For the right price, which is about a ride back to Orlando and a bottle of Jim Beam, Ill keep believing that one day hell lose the lead in the final round of a major championship. Ill keep believing that somebody can beat him in this particular situation.
 
I'll keep being wrong.
 
I got an e-mail this week from a reader who said that Woods doesnt compare to Nicklaus, because Tiger doesnt have Jack's level of competition.
 
I dont like comparing different eras, because I wasnt around in the 60s and was more consumed with Star Wars action figures than golf in the 70s. Is Tiger better than Jack? Couldnt tell you. All I know is that hes the greatest player Ive ever seen, and that the only people who draw a comparison to him in my time are athletes in other sports.
 
That reader was also adamant that Woods should not be considered among the top 5 players of all time.
 
And, hes partially right.
 
One of the new planets that scientists believe they have discovered is the planet Crazy; and on planet Crazy, Tiger Woods is not among the top 5 players of all time.
 
Woods is now second to only Nicklaus in career majors won, passing Walter Hagen.
 
This was his third PGA Championship triumph, and his second at Medinah (1999). Hes now just one U.S. Open win away from completing his third trip around the career Grand Slam, something only Nicklaus has done (no other full-time player on TOUR today has more than three career majors of any kind).
 
By winning this week, and adding to his Open Championship victory a month ago, he captured multiple major titles in the same season for the fourth time in his career (Nicklaus did it five times).
 
And with this victory, he appears to be a lock to win yet another money title (his seventh in 10 full seasons on TOUR) and another Player of the Year award (his eighth).
 
Oh, and he's halfway to completing the 'Tiger Slam' once again, winning four straight majors, which is something he did from the 2000 U.S. Open to the 2001 Masters Tournament. And, in case you're wondering, the way he's playing right now reminds him an awfully lot of the way he was playing back then.
 
'Yeah,' he said with his Tiger Woods grin. 'Pretty close.'
 
Whether or not you're a fan, appreciate what Woods is doing. You may not get a chance over the remainder of your life to see anyone else do it better.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.