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The next frontier for Tiger is winning majors

With Tiger Woods’ recent win at the AT&T National, he moved past Jack Nicklaus with 74 career PGA Tour victories.

With Tiger Woods’ recent win at the AT&T National, he moved past Jack Nicklaus with 74 career PGA Tour victories.

BETHESDA, Md. — For all the endless parallels between the so-called new Tiger Woods and the old one, this was one comparison he didn’t mind.

Winning at Congressional made it seem like 2009 all over again.

Woods returned from a significant leg injury back then amid questions whether he could be the same golfer he once was. He answered by winning Bay Hill, Memorial and the AT&T National in the first half of the season, and he wound up winning six times on the PGA Tour, seven worldwide.

This time, he is coming off a year in which he sat out three months and two majors to allow left leg injuries to fully heal. Halfway through the season, he has won those same three tournaments, so perhaps he is headed toward another year like 2009.

“Well, I had a good year that year. I think I won six times that year. That would be nice if I could get that same total,” Woods said, pausing to smile before adding, “with a couple of majors in there.”

Therein lies the difference — and the challenge.

It’s all about the majors, isn’t it?

PGA Tour events should not be dismissed. Congressional was tougher than it was for the U.S. Open last year. An argument could be made that no other golf course on U.S. soil did a better job identifying who played the best that week. It was the 74th career win for Woods, moving him past Jack Nicklaus into second place, leaving him only eight tour wins short of Sam Snead’s record.

Even so, that’s one of the few times Woods and Nicklaus are mentioned together when the topic is not major championships.

Majors are said to be the toughest to win, though that can be debated. The conditions tend to be so extreme they expose and eliminate those who don’t have full control of their game and their emotions. That’s what Phil Mickelson suggested in 2001 at the PGA Championship when he was frustrated by not having won a major at that point in his career, and Adam Scott raised the same point early last week at Congressional.

“I still think majors are every good player’s best opportunity to win a tournament,” Scott said.

Woods has not been a factor in the first two majors, another parallel to 2009. He tied for 40th at the Masters, and after sharing the 36-hole lead in the U.S. Open, he stumbled on the weekend and tied for 21st. While his performance looked OK on paper in 2009, he was never a factor in the first two majors — seven shots behind going into the last round at Augusta National, nine shots out of the lead on the last day at Bethpage Black.

The next stop for Woods is Royal Lytham & St. Annes, but not before he heads to The Greenbrier Classic this week in West Virginia.

The odds makers have installed Woods as the favorite for the British Open, just as they did for the Masters and the U.S. Open. And it’s still a good bet. Luke Donald remains No. 1 in the world, with Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood not far behind. Even with his win at Congressional, Woods stayed at No. 4 in the world. That’s only because of the math, and the fact the world ranking is based on two years instead of what happened yesterday, or even the last three months.

No matter. The score that will get everyone’s attention at Lytham will belong to Woods.

“I think he’s the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, is that correct?” Bo Van Pelt said after taking Woods the distance on Sunday only to finish two shots behind. “On three different golf courses. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I’d say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”

The better measure of Woods’ standing is that he is leading the PGA Tour money list for the first time since September 2009, when he won the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus and capped off a season that topped $10 million in earnings.

To the golfing public, that’s just window dressing.

When it comes to Woods, the majors are really all that matter at this stage in his career. The notion of whether he is “back” from physical and emotional scars has been answered by now. He is capable of winning whenever and wherever he plays.

Even so, the conversation among the CBS Sports analysts as Woods walked toward the 18th green at Congressional shifted to the majors, and rightfully so. Until he reaches Snead’s record, the focus will be where it always has been — on the four biggest prizes in golf.

Woods now has won 27 percent of his PGA Tour events, a rate never seen for a guy who’s been around for 16 years. To break that down, he has won 28 percent of his regular tour events, compared with 24 percent of his majors. That translates to one major a year over the course of his career.

But he has gone four years without one, dating to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines when he played on a left leg that had two stress fractures and shredded knee ligaments that had to be rebuilt the day after he won.

Woods was practically gloating Sunday evening about those who dared to even suggest earlier this year he might not win again. One reporter mentioned he had won three of his last seven starts and asked which parts of his game have come around.

“Pretty much everything,” Woods said. “I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again. Here we are.”

When the issue of media skeptics was raised later in his interview, Woods talked about overhauling his swing and that not being able to practice essentially put him a year behind. But once he became healthy, he could see the progress.

“It was just a matter of time,” he said. “I could see the pieces coming together. … Give me a little bit of time, and I feel like this is what I can do.”

He’s doing what he once did with frightening regularity, which is to pose with the trophy. This is the 12th time in 16 seasons that Woods has won at least three times. Nicklaus had 14 seasons of at least three wins, though he never won more than seven in a year. Woods has had three seasons of at least eight wins.

There’s that Woods-Nicklaus comparison again, but it’s not the one everyone thinks about.

Including Woods.

Comments

coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

Tiger is the man!!!! He does not have to win anymore Majors......Nobody else will ever come close....

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

Tiger only wins the small tounament, he can't win any major tournaments. He always suffers a meltdown.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

You sir are a LIAR!!!! TIGER HAS PROVED YOU WRONG SEVERAL TIMES!!!

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

Yeah? when is the last time he won a major tournament, like the Masters, U.S. Open? Huh? Huh? Sure he has won these small tournaments, but I am talking about the big ones. No Coach, I am not a liar and Tiger hasn't proven me wrong. once.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

and BTW, Tiger does not need your approval.....

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

And I am sure he doesn't need your support. Doesn't even know you exist.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

He is not supposed to.....he has fans all over the world.....He also has haters like you all over the south.....but at the end of the day.....He cashes a serious paycheck that you are jealous of....NOT ME!!! I want him to get richer and richer playing your sport.

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

It's not my sport you racist!

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Hawk59 1 year, 9 months ago

Go Tiger go! Prove the haters wrong!

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

Ain't gonna happen, Tiger will suffer a meltdown and choke like he always does at the big ones. Even if ol sour puss did get lucky and win a major tournament, it wouldn't prove anything. After several failures at winning the big one, he's bound to get lucky one time, but that is doubtful.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

Everytime you hate ...your nose grows....I bet you can smell a hog's behind in florida by now.....

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

If anybody should know about smelling, it should be you, after smelling and eating all that dog poop Obuma served you.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

I'd rather have President Obama on a bad day than have BUSH on a good day.......thats a NO BRAINER......even you can understand..!!!

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

"The odds makers have installed Woods as the favorite for the British Open, just as they did for the Masters and the U.S. Open." Yes, & both times Tiger fell flat on his face.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

When you have over 100 pro golfers entering a tournament and you finish in the top 10 of a major.....thats not exactly "falling on your face"..dummy....Thats a great accomplishment.

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

But he didn't win either like they predicted dummy. They only remember THE WINNER. Nobody remembers who came in 3rd or 5th.

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coachjohnson42 1 year, 9 months ago

He cant win ALL the tournaments dummy.....just a higher percentage than yo boys........

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Hawk59 1 year, 9 months ago

VSU...Sounds like the same thing you were preaching about LeBron James. You are the type of person that motivates these athletes. Do them a favor, keep on hating!

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

Yeah DumbA$$ I am sure LeBron James read my posts and made him more determined than ever to win. Like your prediction that the Thunder would win it in 6. If I were you I would stay far away from Vegas.

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Hawk59 1 year, 9 months ago

Just because I wanted Oklahoma to win doesn't mean that I bet on them DUMB-SS. I do good on sports betting. You forgot I live in S. Florida idiot. I am a real sports fan. Although I love my Cowboys, I made money betting against them the last two years. And by the way, I also bet with Miami to win Dumb-ss!

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

You didn't say you wanted them to win, you predicted Oklahoma to win. Betting against the Cowboys is a no brainer. Any idiot such as yoiurself could win money off of them. That doesn't make you a smart better.

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

Here is another example of proving your statement wrong. For years i egged ASU fans on about VSU beating them all the time, so they finally put VSU back on the schedule. They all said they wanted to shut me up after my so called motivation would steer them to victory. Well that did not happen as VSU beat them again, and once again ASU took VSU off the schedule, so that kills your theory about motivating these athletes. You either got it or you don't. i can guarantee you I had 0% of LeBron James winning that NBS championship. I knew Miami would win, you said Oklahoma would win. I was right, you were wrong.

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rorschach 1 year, 9 months ago

Based on the way everyone is playing I believe that Tiger has a better chance of catching up with or passing Jacks' 18 majors than anyone else has of catching up with him at 14. And while he is chasing Jacks' 18 majors he is sure to pass Sam Sneads' record of 72 tour victories along the way. It must be rough being a Tiger hater these days. It would probably be easier to just admit that he is the greatest golfer of our generation and before his career is over he will be acknowledged by everyone that knows the sport as the greatest of all time.

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VSU 1 year, 9 months ago

Yeah it's easy racking up wins in jabroni tournaments, but he has not been successful winning the big ones. Just like ASU beating up on the weak teams, but when they play someone like VSU they always lose. I am not saying Tiger doesn't win tournaments, just saying he can't win the big ones.

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rorschach 1 year, 9 months ago

It would probably be easier to just admit that he is the greatest golfer of our generation and before his career is over he will be acknowledged by "EVERYONE THAT KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT THE SPORT" as the greatest of all time. "jabroni tournaments" now that's funny. Some of the top golfers in the world didn't even make the cut in some of those "jabroni tournaments" because many of the courses they play on have been "Tiger Proofed" to make it hard for Tiger. The problem is that what's hard for Tiger is harder for everone else. Good night man. Don't lose any sleep on it. You know as well as I do that Tiger Woods is the best golfer on the planet right now. You can root against him but deep down inside, you know.

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