Tiger Streaks into Match Play

By Rich LernerFebruary 20, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007- WGC-AccentureMARANA, Ariz. -- The streaks at seven and, as achievements go, inside Tigers top 5 all time. Four majors in a row, three straight U.S. Jr. Ams, he said when asked to rate his greatest hits. He stopped there, prompting the follow up. Would you put this current streak in the top 5? I asked. Yes, he said.
The junior titles might come as a surprise, but hes always held those in high regard, knowing the degree of difficulty in winning that many matches in a row. For good measure, he reeled off three straight U.S. Amateur Championships as well. That, according to a Team Tiger insider, would likely fill out that top 5 along with 142 straight events in the money.
I could be the answer to a trivia question, I guess, cracked his first-round opponent, J.J. Henry, hoping to be the guy who stops the streak. Henry hit balls before the approving eyes of his longtime instructor, Dana Bellanger, just a couple spots from Brett Quigley. Quigley was slated to tackle Tiger when Charl Schwartzel withdrew, bumping Quigley up a slot and moving Henry into the 64- hole.
I left J.J. a message, said Quigley, who found out late Sunday while playing a practice round here at The Gallery. I said the good news is youre in and the bad news is you got Tiger!
Actually, Quigley was let down when he heard that he wasnt playing Tiger as hed originally thought. Youre not on center court, he said of the change in pairings. Quigley understands Jim Fuyrks still a very tough draw, but he was looking forward to being a part of the spectacle of the whole world watching that one match.
Quigley believes Henry could be a tough out for Tiger: Hes as long as Tiger and a great iron player, and thats important here as big as these greens are.
Henrys a strong ball-striker wholl need his sometimes balky putter to heat up the way it did when he won at Hartford last year, his lone PGA TOUR victory. You gotta beat Tiger sometime if you want to win the tournament and Id rather get him in the first round than after hes seen the golf course four or five times, Henry said.
Henrys KOd a No. 1 before, though nothing on the order of Tiger. At the 1998 U.S. Amateur at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., J.J. survived a 10-man playoff for the last match-play spot, edging his old TCU teammate Alberto Ochoa. Then, in the opening round match, he beat the medalist, Joel Kribel, Tigers former teammate at Stanford. It really wasnt an upset, though, because as J.J. reminded me, he was the co-collegiate Player of the Year and a first team All-America at the time. Henry eventually lost to Tom McKnight, who then lost in the finals to Hank Kuehne.
A win over Tiger would no doubt qualify as a great moment for Henry, but it would guarantee only a chance to play as many as five more matches, as well as a small place in history as the man who stopped the second greatest streak ever.
On the much discussed subject of that streak, skeptics are quick to point out that Tigers lost events overseas during the run. Ive done a lot of losing, Tiger quipped to a roomful of laughter during his Tuesday press gathering. So, yes, this is only a PGA TOUR streak. But ask Ernie Els or Retief Goosen or Sergio Garcia, all winless over the last year or more, how hard it is to win any event on TOUR. Ask Jim Furyk, whos won seven times over the last six years combined.
Seven wins is a career for a lot of guys, said Lee Westwood.
Its something I didnt do I know that, remarked Jack Nicklaus, in Tucson to discuss his planned course that will eventually host the WGC-Match Play.
Golf tournaments are simply hard to win at this level. That Tiger ranks this streak among his greatest achievements tells us he understands that, even if his play suggests otherwise.
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