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Boring Us with Greatness

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Boring. Thats what it was. Lets not kid ourselves. Masters Sunday was like so many Super Bowls, hyped to the heavens and by the third quarter youre flipping back and forth between the game and 'Blind Date.'
 
How in the world did it fall apart?
 
Players talked about pin placements. But pin placements had nothing to do with Vijay rinsing a pair of balls at 15, and nothing do with Ernie dropping eight on the board at 13. Maybe Ernie tapped into the heart of the matter when he admitted that he got greedy off the tee at 13. Tiger Woods takes guys out of their games. They know hes not giving a thing away, so consequently they step on the accelerator and end up crashing into a tree.
 
For his part, Woods simply doesnt miss four- and five-footers that matter. He consistently targets the right quadrant on the greens. He eases into a tournament and then applies heat by the weekend. Ultimately, Woods squeezes the life out of the field.
 
His mastery of Augusta National continues. Of 24 rounds hes played, hes been at par or better 22 times, including 10 straight. His scoring average is 69.83.
 
The longer golf course in the end, as many thought it might, limited the number of potential winners to mostly big hitters. Nick Price ripped the changes, arguing that a shotmaker like Gary Player could never have won on this course. Who knows? The true measure of the changes to Augusta National will come when conditions are firm and fast. In any event, Woods is more than just a long hitter. Hes a shotmaker, a thinker, an artist around the greens and an unrivaled grinder.
 
There had been some talk that the gap between Woods and the rest of the best was closing, but the only gap thats narrowing is the one between Tiger and Jack Nicklaus. Tigers now played 21 majors as a professional and has won seven. Through 21 tries, Jack had won six. Tigers finished in the top three on nine occasions, compared to 13 for Jack. Both legends posted 13 top-10s through their first 21 majors. Whats more, Tigers now deadlocked in the professional major department with a few names you might recognize: Vardon, Jones, Sarazen, Snead and Palmer. And hes just 26. Thats a daunting prospect for Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, David Duval and countless others. Majors will be hard to come by.
 
Sunday, the best in the game were bunched up, and Woods made a statement. Theres only one. His mother, Tida, told me earlier in the week that Tiger felt he hadnt garnered all the respect he may have been due as people debated whether hed achieved the Slam or not. She said he might just go make it a moot point by winning them all in 2002.
 
Unless some of Tigers challengers step forward, it could be a predictable - and dare I say boring - march to more history.