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Difficult to Compare Nelsons and Woods Streaks

PGA TourSAN DIEGO -- Byron Nelson won 11 straight tournaments over five months.
Tiger Woods took almost that much time off between PGA TOUR victories No. 6 and No. 7 in a winning streak that is increasingly difficult to compare.
'Apples to oranges,' Woods said, and he just as easily could have mentioned lemons.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has enjoyed his romp through the PGA TOUR in recent months.
After winning five straight times from the British Open through the Deutsche Bank Championship, Woods lost in the first round of the HSBC World Match Play Championship on the European Tour in September. Two weeks later, he made it six in a row on the PGA TOUR (in London, of all places) and skipped the final month of the PGA TOUR season. Then he finished second two straight weeks in Asia.
His 'winning streak' reached seven with his victory Sunday at the Buick Invitational.
Got that?
For its records, the PGA TOUR only keeps track of tournaments that count toward its official money list. That's no different from policies in Europe, Japan or any other tour. And the record correctly shows Woods has won the last seven times he has teed it up on the PGA TOUR, the second-longest streak in history.
Whether the streak should be mentioned in the same scope as Nelson in 1945 is a fruitless discussion, because it's impossible to compare generations, no matter what sport.
John Elway or Johnny Unitas? Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron? Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis?
Woods broke Nelson's other streak -- 113 consecutive cuts -- at the end of the 2003 season, and even that was subject to debate. Making a cut in Nelson's era meant making money, and tournaments often paid only the top 20. Woods' cut streak that eventually reached 142 included 30 tournaments that didn't even have a cut.
So there's no need to explain to Woods that 2007 isn't the same as 1945, even beyond the standard argument about strength of field, course conditions, athleticism and evolving equipment.
Nelson traveled in a Ford Roadster. Woods takes a Gulfstream V.
Golf is so global now that Woods has played more overseas than on the PGA TOUR in the last four months, including this week in Dubai. For Nelson, international travel meant going to Montreal.
Woods last year renewed his deal with Nike that will pay him about $30 million a year. Nelson's big endorsement came from Wheaties for $200 and too much cereal, and he only got that deal after breaking the PGA TOUR record with his fifth straight win.
'I never had an agent, so I talked to them myself and they put my picture and some statistics about me on the box and paid me $200 plus a case of Wheaties a month for six months,' Nelson wrote in his 1993 autobiography. 'I had to give most of the cereal away, because while I liked Wheaties fine, you can only eat so much of it.'
Similarities in the streak are not hard to find.
Nelson's run included the PGA Championship, the only major on the schedule in 1945. Woods won two majors during his streak.
Nelson won his fifth straight tournament by nine shots. Woods captured his sixth straight by eight shots. Nelson had to birdie five of the last six holes to rally against Jug McSpadden in Philadelphia. Woods played his first seven holes in 6 under and shot 63 as he rallied to beat Vijay Singh in Boston.
The most glaring difference, however, is the duration.
Starting the first week of March, Nelson won his first five tournaments in five weeks, and there wasn't another tournament on the schedule until the Montreal Open the second week in June. The only tournament he skipped during the streak was the St. Paul Open a week after the PGA Championship. He missed that week because of a back injury. Small wonder.
The 11th and final victory in Nelson's streak came Aug. 4 at the Canadian Open.
'As you can imagine,' Nelson wrote, 'though I was playing very well, I was also getting very tired.'
Nelson won 18 times that year, a record Woods might never break because he might not even play 18 times in a year.
When he skipped the TOUR Championship last year, Woods said he was exhausted playing seven tournaments in nine weeks.
Apples to oranges, indeed.
To compare streaks, the best bet is Woods vs. Woods.
Seven years ago, the circumstances were nearly identical. Woods won his final four PGA TOUR events of the '99 season, finished sixth at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand, then resumed his streak in 2000 and stretched it to six victories before it ended at Torrey Pines.
But it wasn't always smooth sailing.
He beat Phil Mickelson by one shot at Firestone and Ernie Els by one shot at Disney. He took triple bogey on the silly 17th hole at Valderrama, got into a playoff when Miguel Angel Jimenez bogeyed the 18th hole and won in the dark. He went eagle-birdie-birdie to beat Els on the second playoff hole at Kapalua with a 35-foot putt that no one is supposed to make. And at Pebble Beach, he rallied from seven shots down with seven holes to play.
He won those six tournaments by a combined eight shots.
Woods has won these seven PGA TOUR events by a combined 22 shots, and the only close call he had came at Firestone when Woods went four extra holes to beat Stewart Cink.
That might explain why there is so much speculation whether Woods can break the record.
It would require five more victories, which would take place over at least three months. And that's why any comparison of Nelson and Woods always should include apples and oranges, if not an asterisk.
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