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Tiger and Charley Go to San Diego

Watching Charles Howell III and Luke Donald open the door for Paul Goydos in Hawaii, and then witnessing Justin Rose and Lucas Glover wobble in the wind at the Hope, the inescapable thought was that Tiger Woods has nothing, absolutely nothing to worry about from the current crop of players in their 20s.
Thats somewhat shocking considering that most figured young talent would flood the scene in the wake of Tigers Masters victory in 1997. Theories abound: flawed junior and college programs; instructors who coach the feel out of golfers; and obscene amounts of money quelling the hunger. Its also entirely possible that Tigers simply a once-in-a-100-year phenomenon whos diminished the stature of so many other competitors in his wake.
Winning 11 in a row doesnt seem impossible. Winning a second Tiger Slam doesnt seem impossible. What does, really? He authored his second greatest season ever in 2006, responding to the loss of his father by then nailing down every PGA TOUR start but one. And what should really be frightening for everyone else is that traditionally the great ones begin to truly master the craft in their early-to-mid-30s. Might we witness something really absurd, like Tiger winning 12 of 15 events in 2007? If he just minimally improves his putting and driving, could you write off that possibility?
Woods lords over golf the way few athletes ever have in any sport. With limited appearances, he feels more like a heavyweight boxer from a more gilded era, like Louis or Ali at their peak. When they do fight, its special. You edge forward a bit in your seat. You dare not avert your eyes for fear of missing the inevitable clap of thunder.
In Tigers absence, the first three weeks of the new season will be remembered mostly for the few fresh characters that emerged. And if theres nothing remotely resembling a young threat to Tiger on the horizon, then its imperative that some likeable personalities come forward. Will MacKenzie, Tadd Fujikawa and even Charley Hoffman did very well in that regard. With golf fans begging for someone ' anyone ' to deliver in the clutch, Hoffman finished birdie-eagle to forge a playoff hed win with birdie. It earned him $900,000 and a rip from radio king Jim Rome. Rome swears Hoffman is sporting a mullet, thinks everyone on TOUR might follow suit. Hoffman doesn't know if he's started a trend, but says his hairdo is just a natural flow. Only his hairdresser knows, but this much we do get: Hoffmans now a hero to Romes legendary clones, status precious few golfers can claim.
Again, without a meaningful challenge to Tiger, its critical for the health of the TOUR that some bona fide characters jump up and be noticed. If Charley goes home to San Diego this week and does something crazy like beat Tiger at the wire, then well have an instant new star.
Thats probably the second best scenario behind Tiger pushing the streak to seven. Of course, Tigers not in the business of helping others write their nice little fantasy tales. His is the business of flattening competition and re-writing history.
Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner