Great play puts Tigers greatness into perspective


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – David Toms went from a playoff loss at The Players Championships to a 62-62 start at the Colonial and then a Sunday rally to win for the first time in six years.

It took so much out of him that Toms he is heading off to his lake home in Arkansas – a planned vacation – and he jokingly said he would go to his barber and “get something to cover this gray up.”

With that exhausting stretch came some perspective.

“When I said I feel like I’ve been leading for two weeks, that’s hard,” he said. “When Tiger was winning everything, I always said that was the most impressive thing to me was dealing with it every day. It is tough.”

Sometimes it takes others’ great play to gain a better appreciation of Woods.

There was one stretch at the end of 1999 and into the start of 2000 when Woods either won or was runner-up in nine out of 10 tournaments. During a three-week stretch in the summer of 2006, Woods won a major (PGA), a World Golf Championship (Firestone) and the Deutsche Bank Championship.

More perspective involves Luke Donald, playing the best golf of anyone this year.

Donald reached the final of the World Match Play Championship in Spain before losing to Ian Poulter. Even so, it was Donald’s eighth consecutive finish in the top 10, which includes a win at the WGC version of Match Play in Arizona, a playoff loss at Hilton Head and a late rally at the Masters.

Lee Westwood has two stretches of five straight top-10s on his two-year ledger that helped him get to No. 1 in the world. Vijay Singh, during his rise to No. 1 in the world, once had 10 consecutive finishes in the top 10 at the end of 2003 and into 2004.

And then there’s Woods.

He has posted at least eight straight finishes in the top 10 on eight separate occasions in his career, the longest stretch coming in toward the end of 2006 and early part of 2007 when he had 13 consecutive top-10s, including seven wins.
Bernhard Langer had such a big year in 2010 that he is eligible for eight major championships – all five on the Champions Tour and all but the PGA Championship on the regular tour.

Because of a wrist injury and a sense of fairness, however, Langer is missing the first three.

Surgery on his left wrist already kept him out of the Masters (two-time champion) and this week’s Senior PGA Championship. Next up would be the U.S. Open, although Langer has decided not to play.

Langer, who was eligible as the U.S. Senior Open champion, does not feel as though he can win at Congressional and did not think it was right to take a spot from someone who would have a better chance.

Instead, he will make his “major” debut this year in the British Open at Royal St. George’s, where he finished third in 1993.
The U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America are behind an initiative called “Tee It Forward,” which encourages golfers to play from a shorter set of tees that best matches how far they hit their tee shots.

The idea comes from Barney Adams, founder of Adams Golf, who believes the game will be more fun if players aren’t having to hit long irons or hybrids into every hole. He also thinks it will speed play and help lower scores.

The USGA and PGA of America are asking golfers to participate in this concept from July 5-17.

They have produced a chart that suggests which set of tees to use. For example, a player who hits it 275 yards should play a course between 6,700 and 6,900 yards, while someone whose drive on average goes 200 yards should play a course at 5,200 to 5,400 yards.

The distance chart speaks to the professional state of the game – for pro golfers, the recommended length of a course they should play is from 7,600 to 7,900 yards. According to the PGA Tour media guide, only one course (based on the scorecard) on Tour is longer than 7,600 yards – Cog Hill for the BMW Championship, which is listed at 7,616 yards.
The European Tour is at Wentworth this week for the BMW PGA Championship, its flagship event considered to be the equivalent of The Players Championship. It’s the first time Europe has had all four major champions (all of whom are European Tour members) in its field.

But there is one difference between the two events, beyond the prize fund ($9.5 million for The Players, $6.34 million for Wentworth).

It’s the roll call of champions.

Over the last 10 years, four winners at Wentworth have been ranked outside the top 200 in the world (Simon Khan, Scott Drummond, Ignacio Garrido and Andrew Oldcorn), and two others ranked outside the top 100 (Anders Hansen twice). Only one player inside the top 10 in the world has won since 2001 – Paul Casey, who was No. 7 in 2009.

Craig Perks was No. 203 when he won The Players in 2002. Since then, The Players had had three winners inside the top 10 (Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Davis Love III), and its lowest-ranked winner was Stephen Ames, who was No. 64 when he won in 2006.
Phil Mickelson now has the longest active streak of being among the top 10 in the world, which only further highlights the amazing run of Tiger Woods.

Woods fell out of the top 10 this week for the first time since April 6, 1997, the week before he won the Masters for the first of his 14 majors. He had been in the top 10 for 736 consecutive weeks.

Mickelson now has been in the top 10 for the last 381 weeks, a streak that began more than seven years ago. He would have to stay there for nearly seven more years – he’ll be closing in on 47 – to break Woods’ record.

Greg Norman has the second-longest streak at 645 successive weeks in the top 10, from when the world ranking debuted at the 1986 Masters until late summer in 1998. Back then, however, it was a three-year rolling period with very little movement. Second on the all-time list is Ernie Els at 448 weeks, from 2000 until the fall of 2008.
Steve Pate makes his Champions Tour debut this week at the Senior PGA Championship. He doesn’t turn 50 until the opening round Thursday, and Champions Tour policy is for a player to turn 50 before the pro-am. This is run by the PGA of America, however, and it doesn’t have a pro-am. … The Administaff Small Business Classic on the Champions Tour has been renamed the Insperity Championship to reflect the title sponsor’s new corporate identity. The tournament is held Oct. 7-9 outside Houston. … University of California senior Pia Halbig has been selected for the Dinah Shore Trophy Award, given to a female college golfer who maintains at least a 3.2 grade-point average and a scoring average of 78 or under.
Ross Fisher is the only player from last year’s Ryder Cup who is not exempt for the U.S. Open.
“The trouble is that as a player, you’ve got all the information. But the people commenting only have some of the information.' – Padraig Harrington, asked what he thought about Bubba Watson’s criticism of Tiger Woods.