Tiger's a Beast
Is Tiger unbeatable? Well the answer is “yes” and “no.” After watching the final round of the Masters (my viewing for the second and third rounds was rudely interrupted by a family wedding this year!) it is impossible for me to imagine Tiger ever letting a Major slip away when he has the lead going into the final round. If memory serves, he has only lost a tournament once from a leading position and that was to Ed Fiore in the elite Quad Cities open during his first season on tours.
So back to the question – I don’t think he will ever “lose” a major when he has control of his own destiny. The only way it will happen is if someone plays a blistering final round and steals the tournament. But the likely contenders all seem unable to accomplish such a task. I can remember when Nicklaus was in his later prime you all but expected a second nine charge on Sunday. In ’86 he shot 30 to overtake Ballesteros – who helped him by dumping his approach to hole 15. Singh and Mickelson are clearly capable, but when Tiger is ahead of them their play indicates more of a paralysis than an ominous birdie barrage onset. Els was a disaster.
Seemingly, the only time Tiger can be beat is when he is so far out of contention that the volume of players above him and conditions make a comeback impossible. Jack Nicklaus always said he didn’t worry as much about how many strokes he was behind as much as how many players were between him and the leader. Masterful observation!
But let’s give Chris DiMarco a ton of credit. He is the only person I have seen, with the exception of tour journeyman and now disappearing act Bob May, that has stood up to Tiger and – almost – beaten him. Look at two key shots on the back nine and you’ve got the whole round in a nutshell – Tiger’s chip-in on hole 16 and DiMarco’s non-chip-in on the 72nd hole. How that did not go in is mystifying. A little too much speed and Bobby Jones’s finger poking out of the grave kept it out. That shot was his chance. There was no way he was going to beat Tiger in a playoff. Why? Karma – and I hate to say that.
Although the final round was an electrifying duel between Woods and DiMarco, I was disappointed. It would have been much better to have had more players in the mix, but nobody posted a hot front nine, leaving Woods and DiMarco with too much room for the home stretch. I was annoyed that CBS stayed with Woods for all those agonizingly long putt and shot preparations. But it’s all about ratings for them and I can understand it. If he is in the lead, you have to get in the mindset that you are going to see every one of his shots and very few of anyone else’s.
So does Tiger go on to win the Grand Slam? This year he will have the benefit of courses that he can very well succeed on. Accurate driving will not play a premium until the PGA at Baltusrol. The US Open at Pinehurst #2 may not have a lot of rough to contend with and it is not particularly tight. When Payne Stewart won the let the greens play a starring role – they are nasty and the USGA will create a nightmare situation. Tiger demolished the field at St. Andrews in 2000. He’s got a great shot there for the Open Championship unless we get a good Scottish gale. There won’t be lightening and the R&A will throw those guys out there in almost any conditions – brilliant! Tiger could very well get to Baltusrol with three majors under his belt. I guess if his wife gets pregnant he may stay home to witness the joy of childbirth rather than pursue the Grand Slam – NOT!