Sweeter By the Dozen


You had to look closely. Amid all the tumult and shouting of Sergio Garcias pursuit and Tiger Woods grit at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, you had to look closely.
If you did you saw the relief that washed across Woods face after he won that Sunday. You see, people were beginning to doubt him.
Woods had won the 1997 Masters, his first as a professional, by a stunning 12 shots. He had been instantly anointed the Future of Golf. Causes and corporations immediately stood in line to beg and/or pay for the use of his name.
And now it was more than two years later. And Woods still hadnt won his second major championship. And here was Garcia running, and kicking and producing miracle 6-irons from tree trunks. And here was Woods just trying to get over the hump.
He was also trying to justify the swing changes he had insisted were necessary. Of course we would know by the end of 2000, when he won three majors and nine PGA TOUR titles, that he had been right to fix something we didnt even know was broken.
But the public pressure at Medinah in 1999 had increased in volume.
Golf games go in cycles. Woods is no different that way. So here he was Sunday at Medinah in 2006 trying to show us once and for all that his latest iteration as a player'the 30-year-old, married Tiger Woods with the Hank Haney swing'could be every bit as dominant.
And here he was tied for the lead after three rounds and playing in the last group on the final day of the PGA in a pairing with the spectacularly steady (no, thats not a paradox) Luke Donald.
This was the grown-up Tiger Woods who was looking for his 12th major championship, all of them having come when holding or sharing the 54-hole lead. This was the still-hungry Tiger Woods looking to reach the two-thirds-of-the-way mark to Jack Nicklaus record of 18 professional major victories.
And here he was putting like as dream and beating everybody else by five shots. This was a different kind of relief.
Now we will start talking about another Tiger Slam. Woods will win another Player of the Year and another PGA TOUR money title. I dont know where it will all end. But I never get tired of watching.
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