Woods in 2000 Is Standard of Greatness

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Vijay Singh has one month to put the final touches on what already is a masterpiece.
 
He won for the eighth time this year at the 84 Lumber Classic, setting the single-season earnings record with more than $9.4 million. Singh has at least three tournaments left, so the 10-10 mark - 10 victories, $10 million - is in range. And as a sign that the 41-year-old Fijian is only getting stronger, he has won five of his last six starts.
 
Clearly, comparisons with Tiger Woods are inevitable.
 
As long as the year is 1999 - not 2000.
 
Five years ago, Woods launched a spectacular finish to the season by winning the PGA Championship at Medinah. He became No. 1 in the world, shattered the single-season money record and wound up with eight tour victories, winning five of his last six starts.
 
Singh is every bit as good as that.
 
But no one stacks up against Woods in 2000, the modern standard of greatness.
 
'Tiger won three majors in 2000,' Singh said. 'You can't beat three majors. It's so much more difficult to win major events than normal tournaments. I'm just going to try to enjoy my own good season.'
 
Indeed, Singh should take a bow.
 
He joins Woods (1999, 2000), Johnny Miller (1974) and Arnold Palmer (1960, 1962) as the only players since 1960 to have won at least eight PGA Tour events in one year. If he were to run the table and finish with 11 victories, that would tie for third all-time behind Byron Nelson (18 in 1945) and Ben Hogan (13 in 1946). Sam Snead also won 11 in 1950.
 
Still, Singh's phenomenal season only illustrates how dominant Woods was in 2000, when he won nine times, captured the final three majors and set or tied 27 records.
 
'To me, that's still the best year anybody ever had,' Stewart Cink said. 'Unfortunately for Vijay, he doesn't have any more major tournaments this year.'
 
Everyone remembers the majors, but that was only a part of what made Woods' 2000 the Mona Lisa of golf. And that's why trying to match Singh in 2004 against Woods in 2000 is like putting the Americans against Europe in the Ryder Cup.
 
It's no contest.
 
Majors
Singh won his only major, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, when Justin Leonard bogeyed the last two holes in regulation and Singh won the three-hole playoff by making his only birdie of the day.
 
Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots. He completed the career Grand Slam at St. Andrews by winning the British Open by eight shots. He won the PGA Championship in a playoff over Bob May after both shot a bogey-free 31 on the back nine at Valhalla.
 
Victories
Woods doesn't play as often as Singh, but he usually plays only the tournaments that attract the strongest fields. All but one of his victories in 2000 included at least seven of the top 10 players on the PGA Tour money list that season, the exception coming at the Canadian Open. He won nine of the 20 tournaments he played.
 
Unless he changes his schedule, Singh will have played 29 times in 2004. He beat Woods head-to-head in Boston to replace him at No. 1 in the world, and he also held off Woods at the Buick Open.
 
But three of Singh's victories - 84 Lumber, Houston Open, New Orleans - included only one other player from the top five in the world ranking.
 
Margin of victory
Singh's most dominant victory this year came at Pebble Beach, where he started the final round tied with Arron Oberholser and won by three shots. Woods won five tournaments in 2000 by at least four shots, two of those by double digits (15 shots at the U.S. Open, 11 shots at the NEC Invitational).
 
Both players won twice in a playoff.
 
Woods won his nine tournaments by a combined 46 shots. Singh has won eight times by a combined 11 shots.
 
Money
Although the seasons are only four years apart, the money is substantially higher in 2004 than it was when Woods set the record of $9.1 million in 2000.
 
Singh has played in 18 tournaments with at least a $5 million purse; Woods played in only six of those in 2000. Singh has played 26 tournaments with a total purse of $139.6 million; Woods played 20 tournaments with a total purse of $77.3 million. Comparatively, Woods won 11.8 percent of the purse he played for in 2000; Singh has won 6.8 percent of the purse he has played for this year.
 
In other words, if prize money in 2000 were equal to 2004, Woods would have earned $13,336,532.
 
Scoring
Singh leads the PGA Tour with a 68.92 adjusted scoring average, giving him a .02 lead over Phil Mickelson. Woods set the record in 2000 at 67.79, which was nearly 1 1/2 strokes better than Mickelson.
 
Woods was under par in every tournament and played his final 47 rounds (including three majors) at par or better. Singh has finished four tournaments over par, and he missed the cut at Torrey Pines.
 
Top 10s
Singh is 15-of-26 in top 10s, and he has been outside the top 25 five times. Woods was 17-of-20 in top 10s, and his worst finish was a tie for 23rd.
 
Singh's season is worth celebrating.
 
But for there to be any comparisons with Woods, he will have to come up with something truly special next year.
 
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