Friday, March 19, 2010
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Status quo: Golf still Woods -- and everyone else

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[March 19, 2010]  LEMONT (AP) -- That was more like it.

Golf is still Tiger Woods and everyone else. He still doesn't have a rival, only occasional lapses.

Insurance"To play as well as I have of late and not get the Ws has been a little frustrating, no doubt, because I've been so close," Woods said Sunday after blowing away the field at the BMW Championship. "It's just been a matter of making a couple putts here and there and I would have won the tournaments.

"That," he said very matter-of-factly, "is all the difference it was."

So much for the whispers about Woods looking more like a flinching Tiger than a crouching one. They began when little-known Y.E. Yang caught and passed him at the PGA Championship last month -- guaranteeing Woods would go without a major for the first time in four years -- then intensified when he failed to make a 7-footer that would have forced a playoff at The Barclays two weeks after that.

But the guys who have to face Tiger every week knew better.


Asked just before last week's Deutsche Bank Championship whether Woods was running low on magic, Australian Geoff Ogilvy, a U.S. Open winner and one of the most thoughtful guys out on tour, didn't hesitate.

"I don't think everybody stands on the tee and says, 'He's going to give me a chance.' The best thing about it," he said, "is that the media will stop giving Tiger the tournament after 36 holes."

Proving him right, this time the media waited until 54 holes were in the book.

Right after Woods walked off Cog Hill after wrestling a course-record 62 from the redesigned venue where he'd won four times before, people who know something about golf started checking Sunday's TV listings looking for any sporting events that at least held out the promise of suspense.

Sure enough, Woods left the first tee just before noon with a seven-shot lead over Marc Leishman and choked off the possibility of a rally by the time he reached the turn.

"My whole goal was to shoot under par," he recalled after carding a final-day 68. "If I shot under par, I would force the guys to have to shoot the same number I shot yesterday to force it into extra holes. So that was the whole mindset.

"I made bogey there at 5, and I got it back at 7, birdied 9. I was 1-under par and I figured if I shot just under par on the back nine, it's over. And," he added, "I was able to do that."

Jim Furyk, who finished second, conceded that when he teed off: "I kind of had my eye on second place." But once he saw Woods had dipped to 15 under -- following a bogey at No. 5 -- "I started thinking, well, what if? What if he's 14 now? What if he made another bogey?"

A few minutes passed.

"I asked my caddie where he stood. He said, '17,' " Furyk recalled, "and I just started laughing."

It's better than crying, certainly, but it was also a telling moment. The guys chasing Woods have started drinking protein shakes and working out, they've hired sports psychologists to steel their psyches and NASA-grade scientists to draw up shot-dispersion charts.

Doesn't matter.

When Woods plays well, everybody else is still playing for second.

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Returning to the tour after surgery to repair a shredded left knee, Woods has now won six times in 16 starts. His results in the last six events he played -- three firsts, two seconds and an 11th -- would be a career for lots of guys.

Just this past March, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia -- both mentioned as potential rivals in the last decade -- had a chance to capitalize on Woods' absence for the second half of last season and move into the No. 1 spot in the world ranking. Six months later, Woods has more than doubled his point lead over the current No. 2, Steve Stricker, who also owns the second-highest win total, three.

Then there's this: None of the top four finishers in last year's Fed Ex Cup race -- Vijay Singh, Camillo Villegas, Garcia and Anthony Kim -- have won this year, either, and none will be around for this year's finale at East Lake. After a week off, Woods will arrive in Atlanta with the other 29 golfers there knowing their best chance depends on him having an off week.

"I haven't won as many times as I did in 2000, didn't win any majors this year, but ... I've never had a year where I've been this consistent, either, this many high finishes in the number of events I've played," Woods said.


Someone asked Woods whether, no matter what happens at the Fed Ex Cup, there was "any doubt in your mind that Tiger Woods is the Player of Year."

Woods grinned ear to ear.

"Well,' he finally replied, "we'll let the players vote on that."

[Associated Press; By JIM LITKE]

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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