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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

USATODAY.com - 2000 redux: Woods rules golf again

USATODAY.com - 2000 redux: Woods rules golf again2000 redux: Woods rules golf again
By Tom Spousta, USA TODAY
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — He might not be able to match his amazing 2000 season, but Tiger Woods has warmed up to the challenge.
Despite missing a putt on Sunday at the British Open, Tiger Woods can't help but smile at his play on the PGA Tour this season.
By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

So in the wake of his five-stroke British Open victory — Woods' 10th professional major championship — has he returned to the level of dominance at which he ruled golf five years ago?

"I can't answer that now," Woods said.

His 2005 performance has begun to parallel his greatest season, when he won three majors and six other tournaments.

At this point in 2000, Woods had just won the British Open here for his sixth victory of the season. He had played 13 PGA Tour events and also captured the U.S. Open. Among his other finishes: a fifth at The Masters, three seconds and one fourth. Woods also won the PGA Championship that year, and when he added The Masters in '01, he earned what was deemed the Tiger Slam for winning four majors in a row, albeit not in the same season. In all, he won seven of 11 majors, starting with the 1999 PGA Championship, during his most dominant stretch.

"What we've seen is that he went ahead of the pack very early in his career," Royal & Ancient Club chief executive Peter Dawson said Monday. "There was an element of catching up by other players. He raised the standard. And now, he seems to be stepping forward again. We'll see if the others step up to the challenge."
Major players
No golfer has won all four professional majors in the same calendar year. Tiger Woods has finished first, second and first in this year's first three majors. Some of the best overall performances in the majors in the same year (minimum two major wins):

With Sunday's win, Woods is eight majors from tying the record of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus.

"I have to say, that is the best I have seen Tiger swing," Nicklaus said after Woods shot a 2-under 70 on the final day. "Tiger has been working on his game, and he certainly seemed to find it at St. Andrews. Tiger looked in total control; he never looked like there was a chance for him to lose."

Sunday's triumph at the British Open was Woods' fourth victory in 14 tournaments this year. It was his second major title, too, joining The Masters.

In his other two victories this year, he rallied to win during the final round, coming from two strokes behind at the Buick Invitational and in his duel with Phil Mickelson at the Ford Championship at Doral.

One glaring difference in '05: Woods missed the cut at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, ending his record run of 142 made cuts in a row.

Whether he reaches his 2000 heights or not, Woods appears to be within range of surpassing Vijay Singh's money record of $10.9 million set last season. Woods' paycheck for the British Open pushed him to $6.6 million, tops on the PGA Tour this year. Singh, who tied for fifth at St. Andrews and has played 21 events (seven more than Woods), is second at $5.99 million.

Woods also has the inside track to reclaiming Player of the Year honors, which he won five consecutive times from 1999-2003 before Singh interrupted his streak.

And Woods likely has solidified his No. 1 world ranking ahead of Singh based on his recent impressive victories, which count more on the world ranking points system that's weighted over a two-year span.

In the past, Woods has downplayed any "Big Five" rivalries, saying he had to play the course, not competitors. Now, he's embracing those rivalries as the PGA Championship approaches.

"Look at how many tournaments we've won over the last five years, around the world. It's pretty impressive to look at how many tournaments we've won as a group," Woods said.

"Right now any one of us can win any tournament that we enter, especially with the field getting as deep as they are. For the five of us to have been able to win major championships during the same era, the same time, we're all in the field together, it adds to that."

Contributing: Wire reports

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