Building to a Crescendo

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If the Chinese calendar had as many Years of the Tiger as the PGA TOUR, all the other creatures in the animal kingdom would file a class action.
 
Fact is, Tiger Woods is now the heavy favorite to win his eighth Player of the Year award. Hes the only one with three wins on the PGA TOUR in 2006. And give him extra style points for the way he conquered Hoylake and the field at the British Open last week.
 
Just one driver in 72 holes. But a steady stream of long irons that would have made Ben Hogan proud.
 
Now the 2006 season continues to build to a crescendo. Theres the PGA Championship next month at vaunted and historic Medinah near Chicago. And then theres the Ryder Cup at the K Club near Dublin in September.
 
Serendipity will be at work at Medinah, at least for the first two days, thanks to the PGA of Americas time-honored tradition.
 
That tradition dictates that the years current major champions comprise a grouping the first two days. Which is to say that current Masters champions Phil Mickelson, current U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and current British Open champion Woods will play together Thursday and Friday.
 
All of which will be the cause of much clamor and anticipation in the golf world. Or, as one PGA of America official told me Tuesday: Monster crowds.
 
Ogilvy and Mickelson both have two PGA TOUR wins this season. And a victory for either at Medinah would snatch the Player of the Year lead away from Woods.
 
For his part, Woods plans to hit more than one driver at the PGA. Medinah will play to a par of 72 at close to 7,500 yards. The grass is much greener there, the rough thicker and heartier. Many of the greens are elevated from the fairways. Medinah is the antithesis of Hoylake.
 
In 1999 Woods held off a 19-year-old Sergio Garcia and eked out the PGA at Medinah by one shot after leading by as many as five during the final round.
 
Woods hit lots of drivers that week and wound up tied for 34th in driving accuracy while finishing first in driving distance.
 
Hank Haney, Woods swing coach, informed me earlier this week that we can expect Woods game plan at Medinah next month to be the same one he employed there in 1999.
 
The game within the game at Medinah will be the Ryder Cup point standings. It will be the last chance for hopefuls to play their way on to captain Tom Lehmans team.
 
When I checked with the Davis Love camp Monday I was told that nothing is more important (besides family and friends) in Loves life right now than making Lehmans squad. Love has played in the last six Ryder Cups for the U.S. and currently ranks 13th in the standings.
 
Saturday a private jet transported Love and Lucas Glover (also just outside the current top 10) from Hoylake to the K Club for a Sunday morning practice round/scouting mission. This, after Love and Glover had missed the Hoylake cut.
 
The good news for Lehman is that Chris DiMarcos second place finish at Hoylake moved him to No. 6 in the Ryder standings and virtually assured him of a spot on the team. Which also means we can expect Lehman to team Furyk and Woods together and DiMarco and Mickelson together on a daily basis at the K Club.
 
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