Who wouldnt want what you have, by the way? Four green jackets. An annual income of between 80 and 100 million dollars. A beautiful young wife. A devoted set of parents. A caddie who would bite the head off a grizzly bear and flush it down a Port-A-John if it got too close (all right maybe Fluff Cowan was more lovable, but Steve Williams is loyal and serves his purpose). And a future thats brighter than the kilowatt smile you flash at all the right times.
But in case you hadnt noticed, theyre gaining on you, Tiger.
Consider the way Chris DiMarco chose to compete against you in Sundays memorable final round at Augusta National. He obdurately refused to abandon his game plan and he established himself as perhaps golfs most dogged pursuer.
When you summoned up all your imagination and jarred that impossibly brilliant and important chip shot for the two on 16 that nobody who saw it will every forget, DiMarco didnt panic. Quite the contrary, he continued to beard you. It was all part of the same strategy that became evident on the 15th hole when DiMarco refused to take the bait from 219 yards. Instead, he laid up on the par 5 and made his birdie the old fashioned way. He one-putted. To stay within one.
By the time the both of you, playing in the final group, reached the 17th hole, your lead was two. Yet, it appeared that DiMarco was reeling you in rather than the other way around. Especially when you bogeyed the last two holes to fall into a playoff that you would need birdie to win.
You have created a monster, Tiger. And it is everybody else. Your excellence has forced everybody else to readjust. You raised the bar and jumped over it with a leap that cleared tall buildings in a single bound. Now everybody else is catching up.
You are halfway to matching the 18 professional majors of Jack Nicklaus. Your stated career goal is to reach 19. If you average one major a year for the next 10 years or so, you will break his record by the time you are 40.
But Phil Mickelson, who finished second in the U.S. Open the last time they played it at Pinehurst in 1999, will be waiting for you there when the next major convenes in June. Ernie Els and Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh arent going anywhere anytime soon. Luke Donald will be wanting a piece of you soon enough. And by the time youre old enough to run for President (less than six years from now) amateur Ryan Moore will be a force. Thats a promise.
So enjoy the spoils while you can. And stay the course in pursuit of Nicklaus record in professional majors. But understand that the next 10 are going to be a lot harder than the first 10.
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