Monday, October 2, 2006
Updated: October 9, 3:42 PM ET
Tiger's run of wins is simply unbelievable
By Tim Rosaforte
Before we get around to whether it's a streak or not, the overview from this seat is that, yes, it's better than 1999-2000.
I never thought that until last week, when Tiger Woods won his sixth straight (stroke-play) tournament, powering through a case of golf burnout with a performance that was every bit as dominating as any before.
I always thought the Butch Harmon brand of Tiger was more consistent, tighter at the top of the backswing, better built for majors. (He did win the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, a Masters by 12 and a British Open by 8.)
Now we're seeing Hank Haney's model smoothed out with polish, and it's scary how good it looks.
Woods went around The Grove in 23 under par, dusting the field by eight, dusting it from the center of the fairway on most holes, in a composite of how the game is played at the highest level.
That he would put on that kind of show, after a grueling week at the Ryder Cup, after the trans-Atlantic trip with the Boys to The K Club, after winning five straight, including the grind of two majors, comes as no surprise. After all, this is not Harmon or Haney hitting the shots, it's Woods.
What he's laying down is simply unbelievable. In this day and age, with the talent level so deep, to keep winning and winning again, with all that money in the bank, defies the history of the game and the laws of human nature. Now he's at six and heading to the boat for three solid weeks of R&R. Fresh from his dives into the waters of the Atlantic, and some range time at Isleworth, he will resume this performance at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Woods said in London the Vardon Trophy doesn't matter, therefore no Disney. He'll have played 16 PGA Tour events this year, three short of his average, mostly due to the illness and subsequent death of his father. Remember, he skipped the Mercedes Championships, didn't play until the Buick Invitational and took nine weeks off between The Masters and U.S. Open.
In the months after Earl's death, we have witnessed the synching up of maturity, a new swing and a new level of patience, both through the ball and with everyone around him. Let's not forget what a rough year it was for Tiger in other ways. But starting in July, on the driving range at Cog Hill, when he and Haney put something together after a patchy opening round at the Western Open, this has been the model that Woods has been striving to achieve.
He has won all ways possible, from the clinical dissection of Royal Liverpool at the British Open, to a blowout at Medinah in the PGA. He was the youngest ever to reach 50 career victories (which he did at the Buick Open), beat Stewart Cink on the fourth hole of a playoff at Firestone and Vijay Singh on a Monday at the Deutsche Bank with a final-round 63.
Whatever's on the schedule, however it's done, Woods will not deviate from the boring process of taking them one at a time, the holes, then the rounds, then the weeks. It is why after a brilliant amateur career of match play he has evolved into a much better stroke-play player, where his chances increase the more holes are played, where he can get into a flow, fight through the bad patch when he's lost his swing or his stroke. (It should come as no surprise that Woods was on the practice green until dark with Haney on Saturday night, six shots clear of the field, dissatisfied with his putting stroke.)
The question came up last week, and it'll be all over The Golf Channel and ESPN and will no doubt create blogomania on a slow news week: Is this still a streak? After all, Woods lost in the opening round of the HSBC Match Play to Shaun Micheel, then went 3-2 at the Ryder Cup. Both are non-PGA Tour events, and both were match-play competition. Making it even move conceivable to buy into the streak is that the HSBC, while an official event on the European Tour, was a 16-man field and barely more than an exhibition in the scheme of tournament golf.
Tiger says no, it is not a streak. But the Palm Beach Post ("Sweet No. 6 for Tiger") and every golf Web site I hit Monday refers to it as a streak, so it is what you want it to be. To me, it's kind of like the Tiger Slam. Stuff from another planet.
There was just the mild hint of a reference by Woods on Sunday that he's now starting to think about extending this whatever it is. Comparing his run to Byron Nelson's 11 straight, Woods said, "It's still a long way to go. If you look at it, I'm barely halfway. What he did was absolutely remarkable, and I'm just thrilled that I've been able to win six in a row twice. That to me is a pretty neat accomplishment in itself."
It kind of sounds like he's treating it like a streak now, doesn't it?
Tim Rosaforte is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.