Tiger looks to break another streak
HAVEN, Wis. -- Tiger Woods is closing in on a different kind of streak, one that was probably inevitable. If he fails to win the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, it will be 10 straight majors without a victory, matching his drought between the 1997 Masters and 1999 PGA Championship.
Five years ago, when Woods defeated Sergio Garcia at Medinah, he went on a run of seven majors in 11 tries, bringing his total to eight, where he stands now.
At that time, he also was emerging from a year-long effort to re-work his swing, a move he felt was necessary to be more consistent.
For whatever reason, Woods has been undergoing a similar, although not as drastic, transformation over the past two years.
|Where they're playing|
Whistling Straits (7,514 yards, par 72). Purse:
Thursday: 2-8 p.m. (TNT)
Friday.: 2-8 p.m. (TNT)
Saturday: 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (TNT), 2-7 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday: 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (TNT), 2-7 p.m. (CBS)
If that is the case, then watch out. Woods went on the kind of run starting with the 1999 PGA that might not ever been seen again. He won four of five major championships, including four in a row.
He also won eight PGA Tour events in 1999, followed by nine in 2000. It was a time when he had the rest of the golf world stunned.
"I hit a lot of fairways, I hit a lot of balls real close and I made a lot of putts," he said. "It's that simple. And I shot some pretty good scores."
But really, there is a bit more to it.
"I got into a great rhythm," he said. "You ask any player out here, there's no substitute for confidence, and I was feeling very confident at the time. I was sitting up there and hitting shots, making a bunch of putts. That was probably the best stretch I've ever had in my life as far as putting-wise.
"You look at the way I putted at Pebble Beach (where he won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes). I didn't miss one putt inside 10 feet, and the British Open (2000 St. Andrews) was about the same. That's a nice problem to have when you go through a stretch like that."
Can Woods win this week? Why not? He is coming off a 21 under par performance two weeks ago at the Buick Open. The conditions are nowhere similar, but to make that many birdies is a good sign.
Woods has always preferred the "par-is-a-good score" kind of tournament, and this PGA could very well be that way. His driving has improved, and if he can get some putts to drop, it would be no surprise at all to see Woods join Ben Hogan and Gary Player with nine major championships and be halfway to Jack Nicklaus' 18.
"You've just got to keep grinding, keep working at it and give yourself a lot of opportunities," Woods said. "I think that's what Jack was able to do better than any other player in the history of our game. He gave himself a lot of chances. I give myself some chances and just haven't won. It's a matter of keep putting myself up there."
The timing is unfortunate.
It used to be that the Ryder Cup needed the boost in publicity. Having players and media discuss it during the PGA Championship was welcome. But not anymore. The Ryder Cup doesn't need such help. And the PGA should stand on its own.
What's more important, winning a major championship or making the Ryder Cup team? Every player would have to say winning a major. But the Ryder Cup is a recurring theme this week. Both captains have been brought in for interviews. Players are asked about the competition that is still a month away.
The Ryder Cup is one of the most-anticipated golf events of the year. It is wildly popular. There is still plenty of time for hype. Why not wait two weeks to name the team, as the Europeans do? Let the captains make their selections at the end of August. It will still get plenty of media attention.
And led the focus be on the fourth and final major championship of the year.
|Got a question about the PGA Tour? Ask ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, who will answer your inquiries in each installment of This Week in Golf.
Q. I heard someone say recently that if it were up the fans, John Daly and Jay Haas would be on the Ryder Cup team. Well, why isn't is up to the fans? The NBA, MLB and NHL let fans decide All-Star teams, why can't we choose two wild-card picks for the Ryder Cup? Sutton should do what the fans want and bring Haas and Daly to Oakland Hills.
A. In other sports, the fans have a role in choosing the teams, but not a complete say. And while fan input seems like a nice idea, it sort of would negate one of the biggest roles of the captain, who is trying to mold his team in a certain way. Sutton has been thinking about this for months, and it is doubtful he will go by what the fans want. If it's Daly and Haas, it will be a coincidence.
Q. How are the President's Cup points awarded? John Daly is in the top 10 and ahead of some other players that are ahead of him for Ryder Cup standing. Should Sutton look at the President's Cup standings to make a decision on his two picks?
A. The U.S. Presidents Cup team is chosen based on PGA Tour earnings from the start of the 2004 season. That is much different than the system used to pick the Ryder Cup team. Players earn points based on top-10 finishes only for the Ryder Cup. Some have called for the system to be changed, as an 11th-place finish earns you nothing in regards to the Ryder Cup. As for looking at the Presidents Cup standings, it is doubtful that Sutton will pay any attention to them. They only take into account this year.
Q. Do you think it is unfair for a player who hits a good shot that lands in a divot to not be able to move it?
Q. What do you think Tiger's chances are at winning the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits? I know that he switched to a graphite shaft on his driver and he has been driving the ball much better than he used to with the steel shaft. Will that have an effect this week?
Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.