Same ol', same ol' for Tiger

Updated: March 26, 2007, 12:09 AM ET
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

MIAMI -- His greatness is unquestioned, undeniable. Nobody would dare argue that Tiger Woods is not the best golfer of this generation, perhaps on his way to being the best ever.

But is the journey to that destination appreciated?

Woods' wins are so routine and with such frequency that it sometimes has a way of diminishing how remarkable it is to be so dominant. It was all but a foregone conclusion Sunday that Woods would go on to victory at the CA Championship at Doral, a World Golf Championship event that boasted every top player in the game.

Tiger Woods
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesTiger shot a final-round 1-over 73 en route to winning at Doral.
This wasn't some regular tour event where half the field has never won or is simply trying to keep a tour card. This was the best of the best, an all-star game of sorts, a field arguably better than the one that will assemble for the Masters in two weeks, when Woods will attempt to win his third straight major championship and 13th overall.

Yet Sunday's round was simply an exercise in making another victory official -- even if it got a little closer than expected at the end.

Because Woods' success when ahead going into the final round is so phenomenal, it was hard to conjure up any way he could lose Sunday. Despite a rather ordinary day, Woods still won playing safe at the final hole.

"He's just better than us," said reigning U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. "If I knew what he was doing, I'd try to do it myself ... I mean, it's good for us because it makes us try to get better. It's kind of fun playing now because he's getting pretty close to being the best golfer of all time. It's fun watching."

Nobody got closer than the 2 strokes runner-up Brett Wetterich finished behind Woods -- and that wasn't until the 18th hole.

This inevitably leads to talk that other golfers wilt in Woods' presence, that they don't have what it takes to stand up to him, that he is competing in an era without another superstar.

Maybe there was some validity to that argument six or seven years ago, when Woods was winning the Tiger Slam and nobody knew what to make of his incredible run. Now, after he has gone through a swing change and a bit of a downturn before another resurgence, such talk only serves to cheapen Woods' accomplishments.

Other players are not so much afraid of Woods as they are incapable of containing him.

"We all know when he's at his best, he's very difficult," Thomas Bjorn said.

Sure, it would be great if Woods had a rival, as Jack Nicklaus did in Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Johnny Miller. All those players won major championships at Nicklaus' expense -- serving to make Nicklaus' 18 majors that much more impressive.

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It is too bad there is a 13-year age difference between Woods and Vijay Singh, the only player of the Woods era to really take him on. Singh has won all three of his majors since Woods won the Masters 10 years ago. He also has two PGA Tour money titles and took over the No. 1 ranking from Woods in 2004-05.

It is also a shame that Phil Mickelson suffers the bouts of inconsistency that keep him from pushing Woods. Mickelson's three major victories since 2004 offered hope that their rivalry could get hot, but the disaster last summer at Winged Foot and Woods' subsequent run of consecutive majors served to cool things considerably.

No other player has won more than two majors since Woods started hoarding them a decade ago. Ernie Els (three overall) and Retief Goosen each have two, as does Mark O'Meara, who is now on the Champions Tour.

Instead of questioning them, maybe we should simply praise him.

There are few who have pursued legendary status with the same passion.

It was just a week ago that we were questioning Woods after a final-nine 43 and a bogey, double-bogey, triple-bogey finish at Bay Hill. When he putted poorly on Thursday here, the alarm bells were still sounding, especially with the year's first major championship just two weeks away.

Then there he was, holding the trophy Sunday evening.

It was his 13th victory in 24 World Golf Championship events and 56th overall on the PGA Tour -- the combined total of Greg Norman, Ben Crenshaw and Curtis Strange.

All at age 31.

There might be a day when the millions of dollars he has accumulated and his record in golf will satisfy him. When beating a white ball before millions of eyeballs will no longer do it for him. When sailing on his yacht or scuba diving or bungee jumping will be his passions, with golf just a diversion.

Maybe then, all will truly appreciate what he is doing now.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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