Looking for a few good men
Now this will rub a lot of people the wrong way, but anyone who wants to argue, I'm here; bring it on.
Here's my contention: The LPGA is a more competitive, more compelling tour than the Tiger Tour. Oops, make that the PGA Tour. At least the LPGA has found some players with the courage to take on Annika Sorenstam. Tiger, meanwhile, has so befuddled his contingent of multimillionaire so-called rivals they are reduced to expectorating in the cup while Woods leaves spike marks on their backsides.
When Sorenstam raised the bar, LPGA players, originally left in her wake, learned to jump higher. Karrie Webb won five times last year, including a major. Se Ri Pak picked off another major and Lorena Ochoa captured six championships, the scoring title, money title and player of the year honors. Her victory Sunday in the Safeway International, in which she held off a closing-round 66 by Suzann Pettersen, gave every indication she is now after Sorenstam's No. 1 spot in the Rolex Rankings.
For his classless act, not only should Garcia not be allowed in the same sentence with Woods, he should not be in the same paragraph, page or book. By spitting into the cup on Saturday after missing a putt, Garcia likely made his most dramatic statement yet that he does not have the self-discipline to be a major championship winner, let alone a rival for Woods. He should be suspended for a month, or docked a billion FedEx Cup points.
So how did Tiger's other rivals do? Ernie Els and Vijay Singh were seven back; Padraig Harrington was nine back; Phil Mickelson finished 10 behind Woods; Jim Furyk was 15 off the pace, followed by Retief Goosen at 19 behind and Adam Scott barely getting edged out by 21 strokes. Seriously, who are you picking in the Masters?
With no racial implication intended, right now Tiger Woods is the Harlem Globetrotters and the rest of the top-10 players in the Official World Ranking are the Washington Generals. It's as if he's toying with the guys, passing them a ball attached to a rubber band that snaps back just as they go to grab it. Tiger finished with a 76 last week at Bay Hill. Oh-oh, he's beatable. Wrong. He just had a bad round.
Mull this one over: With his victory Sunday at Doral, Woods has won 16 of his last 40 PGA Tour starts, extending back to the beginning of the 2005 season. That's 40 percent. A 40 percent winning percentage in golf is like batting .400 in baseball, and that was last done in 1941. Still, that doesn't mean you just lob meatballs across the plate.
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Garcia, Scott and Harrington have a combined zero majors. Add in Furyk and you are up to one. In fact -- and think about this for a while -- Els (3), Mickelson (3), Singh (3), Goosen (2) and Furyk (1) have as many major championships combined (12) as Woods does by himself. Maybe he should let these guys play him best ball?
While Sorenstam has 10 major championships since 1995 and has won at least one in each of the previous six seasons, she has had to fend off a strong group of challengers. Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb have each won seven majors; Se Ri Pak has won five with Meg Mallon and Laura Davies four each. That's a more accomplished group of foes than Woods has had.
Like Muhammad Ali, Sorenstam can be judged in part by the quality of the competition she has knocked out. In Inkster, Webb and Pak, she's defeated her Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton. And now Sorenstam has a new crop coming along in the form of Ochoa, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and more. True, none has yet won a major, but all have voiced their desire to be No. 1. Who has emerged to threaten Tiger?
Tiger is only 31 years old. He could play at this level for another decade. Frankly, he will always be interesting to watch because he is just so good. But he would be more interesting to watch if someone would stand up and shout, "I want to be No. 1" and then play like it. Walter Hagen had Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan had Sam Snead and Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus had Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Who has Tiger had?
It could well be that Tiger's rival is someone not yet on the radar screen. A year ago no one would have guessed that Ochoa would develop as rapidly as she did. But that development was accelerated by her desire. Her goal is clear and unyielding: She wants to be No. 1. She has a big hurdle to clear. Sorenstam is as good as there has ever been. Just like Tiger. It's just that she's got some women willing to make a run at her -- and Tiger can't seem to find a few good men.
Ron Sirak is the executive editor of Golf World magazine.
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