Brilliance at the BMW


BMW Championship 2007 LogoLEMONT, Ill. – Seems about right that the same weekend Michael Jordan was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame Tiger Woods would do his MJ thing at Cog Hill, sans the tongue waging and buzzer-beating histrionics.

Uproot that bronze statue of Jordan in front of the United Center, replace the basketball with a well-worn Scotty Cameron putter and rename Cog Hill the House that Woods built, with apologies to the Jemsek family that has toiled for generations to make the Southside staple something special.

Word is Cog Hill is angling for a U.S. Open and has early dibs on the golf portion of an Olympic itinerary if the Second City gets the IOC’s first nod. Following Woods’ Draconian weekend on the nip/tucked Dubsdread layout the world No. 1 is fine with both options. While they are at it, perhaps the powers could rotate a Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and World Golf Championship through Cog Hill.

Babe Ruth built old Yankee Stadium by hitting dingers. Woods made Cog Hill his own by hitting fairways (41 of 56, T-15), greens (50 of 74, T-4) and every putt that mattered (106, T-2) over four cloudless days.

Chicagoland hasn’t been manhandled like this since the days of Al Capone, who was a Cog Hill regular back in his day.

Sunday’s final lap was a formality, made so by Woods’ scorching 62 on Saturday that gave him a touchdown head start entering the final turn. No one has ever blown a 54-hole lead of seven strokes or more, particularly if his name is Woods.

But Tour types are sticklers for 72-hole events, so off Woods went alongside Brandt Snedeker – who plays fast, talks fast and is fast finding his old form – and a Rugby 7s player, or so it seems when Marc Leishman takes a lash.

Truth be told neither Woods nor anyone else made things interesting as far as the BMW crown was concerned on Sunday. A bogey at No. 5, his first in 21 holes, did little more than mock those a half dozen strokes adrift and his messy birdie from a concession stand and the trees along the ninth fairway made it clear everyone else was playing for “B” flight honors.

A day earlier Woods put the metaphorical fork in the field at the ninth, carving his second shot from 303 yards to 10 feet for eagle. The next 101 strokes were little more than accounting.

“When I got to 10 I remember a few holes back Tiger was at 15 (under),” said Jim Furyk, who rallied with a final-round 66 to finish tied for second place with Leishman. “I started thinking, well, what if? What if he made another bogey? I asked my caddie where he stood and he said, ’17 (under).’ I just started laughing. I thought, back to the real world.”

Cog Hill officials weren’t laughing after Woods’ Saturday 62 likely sent Rees Jones back to the drawing board, U.S. Golf Association officials to another Chicago-area Open venue and Olympic officials to Tokyo or Rio. Gold medals don’t come easy, unless your name is Michael Phelps, and simply put Woods has made the game look easy at Cog Hill.

The well-hit putts that didn’t drop on Sunday at Hazeltine National, the drives that didn’t find the fairway at Liberty National all fell into place at Cog Hill. The result? An eight-stroke victory, Tour title No. 71, which places him two behind Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list, and both hands firmly on the Player of the Year trophy.

This was a Woods of a different sort, unencumbered by the constraints of either a balky putter or a slightly off driver and emboldened by a thorough understanding of his swing.

“The most important thing is that I know he is improving which is his main goal always,” Hank Haney said in an e-mail to Golf “It is exciting for me to see that when things aren't exactly right Tiger can fix himself. As he has said he is getting better all the time at that. He has a great understanding of what he is trying to do and how to do it.”

Following his BMW blowout it’s difficult to grasp the uncertainty of 12 months ago. Still recovering from ACL surgery, unsure of when he would be able to start chasing history again Cog Hill may as well have been the moon last fall.

“There was so many uncertainties at the beginning of the season. I didn't know how the leg was going to respond. I've never had a leg that was stable. I can't remember the last time I had a leg that was stable, that didn't hurt when I played,” said Woods, who finished at 19-under 265 total after a closing 68. “There was so many different things that I didn't know, and I hadn't played competitively since the (U.S.) Open. A lot of guys had played well, and I hadn't played at all. So there was a lot of uncertainty. To come back and be, as I said, this consistent feels pretty good.”

The answers came in a flourish on Saturday and transformed Sunday’s final turn into a surreal study of the mundane.

Not since Jean Van de Velde booted a British Open has the top of a leaderboard drawn so little interest, part a product of Woods’ dominance and part an element of new math.

Event: BMW ChampionshipA dozen players were vying for a spot in the Tour Championship while another half dozen were looking to slip into the coveted top 5 in points, and, as minutia goes, it was exciting stuff.

Luke Donald limped home with a 73 and watched the computer nervously while the final two groups closed out their rounds. “It’s insane,” Donald’s wife, Diane, sighed.

And Donald’s plight wasn’t even close to the day’s most insane.

For most of the day Brandt Snedeker was in, then he was out after needing four putts from 12 feet at the last. John Senden was out, then he was in, thanks to said four-putt. A bogey at the last would have earned Snedeker a trip to East Lake, instead he’s on furlough until Turning Stone.

“I just started thinking about the wrong things,” said an emotional Snedeker, who said he asked about his FedEx Cup status walking up the 18th hole. “I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do. It shouldn’t affect me. It shows how weak mentally I am.”

It was a measure of drama at an event that would have otherwise been devoid of any, yet ultimately the day belonged to Woods.

Only the world No. 1 could rescue golf from the ratings depths of the NFL’s opening weekend, and only the math club could transform East Lake from a formality into a fight, or “sprint” as Woods called it.

Without the points reset, which narrows the gap between Nos. 1 and 2 to 250 points and guarantees the FedEx Cup to any player that is in the top 5 that wins the Tour Championship, Woods would need only to remain upright and lucid to claim his second FedEx Cup.

But then given his Cog Hill performance it will take much more than creative math to keep Woods from winning the FedEx Cup. Thankfully for the other 29 hopefuls bound for Atlanta, they aren’t playing the Tour Championship at Cog Hill.