Friday, February 29, 2008

Simply the Best -- Better Than All the Rest

When you go to the racetrack you always try to find a way to beat the chalk and that’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to do since Tiger Woods turned pro. After all, he’s been the favorite every time he’s teed it up.

I’ve tried to go with Phil, Ernie and sometimes Jim Furyk and almost always found them wanting. Oh, there have been some small rewards like when Phil stared Tiger down at the Deutche Bank last year, but the truth is Tiger didn’t back down; Phil had to beat him and he did--finally.

In any other era, any of these three could be heralded as the greatest player in the world, but not in this era. I watched Jack Nicklaus in his prime and he was, no doubt, dominant (and I was an Arnie guy at the time). However, once Jack looked at the field, he knew he had to beat only four or five players. Tiger looks at the field and knows there are 143 players who have to beat him. He already knows he can beat them. They know it. Everyone knows it. They really don’t know if they can beat him.

Why this change of heart? Most of it comes from the Accenture Match Play Championship. In spite of my Irish roots, I’m not so stubborn that I have to be hit over the head with a 2x4 before I change my mind on anything—okay, not more than two, or three times. What I watched last week was one of the most astounding performances I’ve ever seen. While Phil, Ernie and Jim were departing the event early, Tiger was shifting gears.

In round one, he was three down to JB Holmes with five holes to play. Everyone except Tiger and his caddie Steve Williams thought the end had come early. Given that Holmes was one-under par the rest of the trip, he should have won. Instead that roar he heard was Tiger hitting overdrive as he went five under par on the next four holes. See ya’ JB.

Arron Oberholser? An old friend and foe from junior golf days—Woods 3 & 2.

Big things have been predicted for Aaron Baddeley and he showed what all the hype is about when he threw 10 birdies at Tiger. Tiger answered with 11 and a 20-hole win. The weekend started with KJ Choi and a 3 & 2 victory. Henrik Stensen followed in the semis and was relegated to the Sunday consolation match dropping a 2-down decision.

The 36-hole final must have been a joke because at the end Stewart Cink was giggling. It mercifully ended after 29 holes as Tiger won 8 & 7. As a tour de force, Woods birdied 14 of the 29 holes. No wonder Cink was laughing, it was better than crying.

As Johnny Miller so eloquently pointed out, “A player can accept a beating like this from Tiger Woods. It’s not like it was Rory Sabbatini who was beating him.”

Until last Sunday, I believed Nicklaus was the greatest player of all time. Monday morning, he was the greatest player of his era. It’s Tiger. All that’s missing are the numbers and trust me they’re coming at a record pace.

Sometimes you have to bet the chalk.


Sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating. Saddled with what had become known as Rule 78, where the 36-hole cut of the low 70 scores and ties was amended to add except if there would be more than 78 players left in the field. In that case the cut would be reverted back to the number closest to 70. The rest would go home with a share of the rest of the money, credit for making the cut and of course, FedEx points. This was done in the name of getting the field through on the weekends because of slow play.

In truth, all Tour rules officials have to do is enforce the pace of play regulations on the books and there wouldn’t be anymore problems. Could they do that? Yes. Would they do that? No.

Here’s their solution. After 36 holes, the cut will be made at the low 70 and ties regardless how many players that is. After 54 holes, the field will be cut again at the low 70 and ties. Officials believe the overage will play themselves out of the tournament. Those who are dismissed will be awarded the bottom feeders money according to their score along with credit for making the 36-hole cut and of course, the FedEx points.

Let’s see, there are the extra night’s expenses for the player and the caddie. The former can better afford it than the latter and let’s face it, if you’re given the kiss goodbye on Saturday; you haven’t made that much money anyway. Travel for both has been disrupted. The extra day at home where the player could wash the foul taste of his performance out of his month is gone. The caddie who would have been able to share a ride to the next stop with one of the caddies who now is working instead of traveling has to either scramble for another ride, or stay an extra night at an overpriced motel.

I just wish they’d read their own rule book, enforce the rules and keep it simple.

Bartender, I guess I’m now drinking the Tiger Woods Kool-Aid, but with the next one please add a dash…make that a dash and a half…nah make it a double dash (I’m shifting gears too) of the Goose. Thanks.

See you on the first tee.


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