It has been a few years since anyone spoke of Byron Nelson’s streak in relation to Tiger Woods, but the discussion is [photopress:TigerWoods.jpg,full,alignright]heating up again.
He’s got five wins on the PGA Tour and seven if you include the Target World Challenge and the win in Dubai earlier this year. In my mind, given the fields in the events, those two should be included, which would suggest Woods is only four wins away from Nelson’s record (which incidentally, included a win at Thornhill G&CC just north of Toronto).
ESPN posed the questionto four senior contributors to GolfWeek — “Will Tiger match Nelson’s streak?”
Of course the panel was set up to provide appropriate balance, but executive editor Ron Sirak raises some strong points in suggesting Woods could match Nelson:
The stars are aligned perfectly for this. Tiger has five in the bank going into the CA Championship at Doral, a course where he has won three years in a row. Next up after that for him is the Masters, where he has closeted four green jackets. That brings us to his toughest stretch, when he plays the Wachovia Championship and the Players Championship in consecutive weeks.
He adds that there’s been magic to a couple of Woods’ wins, including
Bay Hill The Arnold Palmer Invitational this past weekend:
But that brings us to the magical part of this run. Woods won the Accenture Match Play when he should have been beaten by at least two opponents, and pulled out a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after starting the tournament with two rather ordinary rounds. The kind of things are happening to Woods that happen to great players when they perform extraordinary things. It’s a mixture of great shots and good luck. The Players will be consecutive victory No. 9. The Memorial, where he has won three times, is No. 10 and then Tiger ties the record at the U.S. Open, which is played this year at Torrey Pines. And all Woods has done there is win five of the last six years. Put it in the bank, it’s a done deal.
The only stumbling block, according to Sirak? The TPC at Sawgrass, where Woods last won in 2001, and a course that seems impossible to dominate.
I find Sirak’s comments interesting because he’s a noted golf authority who is actually suggesting Woods could pull this off. All too often I read general sports columnists wade into the Woods/Nelson issue without really understanding the game or just how hard it is to put together this sort of streak. These are the same ink-stained scribes that suggest Woods will win every tournament he tees it up in.
The truth is that is actually what’s happening currently — but it could easily have faltered. Aaron Baddeley and Henrik Stenson should have beaten him at the match play, with Baddeley having several putts that could have finished Woods off. But he couldn’t find the bottom of the cup, and the truth is that if you don’t take the opportunities that present themselves to beat Tiger, he’ll surely find a way to beat his opponent.
So how good is Woods at the moment? His caddie, the ever likeable Steve Williams, says he’s better than he’s ever been:
“In 2000-01, Tiger was putting unbelievable; his putting was amazing,” Williams said. “He didn’t hit the ball anywhere near like he hits it now, didn’t have anywhere near the array of shots and anywhere near the course management and course control. I don’t even compare the two, to be honest with you.”
On Woods’ second shot into the 18th green on Sunday: “If it had been yesterday, I don’t believe he would have been able to hit that shot,” Williams said after the final round. “We were struggling Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Yes, he got around in a good score for three days, but this morning, he found something and it worked. He played particularly well today.
“He always seems to find it Sunday. That’s the perfect scenario — you make a swing change this morning, and that’s the sort of shot you want to face.” (thanks to Bunker Mentality for this one…)
I still don’t think he’ll pull the streak off — nor do I think he’ll win the Grand Slam. I think he’ll have difficulty winning at Augusta, where victories by short hitters like Mike Weir and Zach Johnson demonstrate there are a lot of players in the mix there. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see Woods take three of four majors this year.
So where’s the streak come to an end? Not this week — expect Woods to batter the Blue Monster in one of those wins that makes Sunday dull to watch.