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Face it, Tiger wins anywhere, no matter the shots required

By BOB HARIG
Published August 8, 2006


Tiger Woods is known for the long ball. Fans marvel at his power, shriek at the sound the ball makes when it leaves the club face, shake their heads at the distance the ball travels.

But if Woods has proved anything in recent weeks - other than the human side he showed in mourning his father's death after winning the British Open - it is that he can win playing any style.

Woods has won his share of tournaments on brutally tough courses where power was important (Augusta National and Bethpage Black come to mind). But he can also win at places where it is more important to position the ball, or where birdies are prevalent, such as was the case Sunday at the Buick Open.

Truth be told, Woods does not much care for the type of golf he had to play at Warwick Hills in Michigan, where he won his 50th PGA Tour title. He much prefers a tough track where pars are meaningful, where it is more about the shots you hit than the putts you make.

But he can go low, too. Although 28 birdies in a tournament is a personal best for Woods, he has been a birdie machine in winning at such places as Las Vegas and Disney. He did it at an American Express Championship in Ireland. And he has done it in major championships, such as at Augusta and St. Andrews.

It almost makes some of the conjecture after his British Open win at Royal Liverpool two weeks ago seem silly.

There were those who wondered about Woods hitting his driver just once during the tournament. Doesn't that cheapen the victory, they thought? Shouldn't a major-championship venue require a few drivers to be legitimate?

Admittedly, Woods has struggled with that club at times. His driving accuracy is nowhere near as good as it was in 2000-01, when he was at his best.

But scoffing at his non-use of a driver failed to acknowledge just how difficult Woods made things on himself. His average second shot at Royal Liverpool was just under 200 yards, and there is no guarantee that even Tiger is going to hit a green from there. And yet, he was second in the tournament in greens in regulation. It was an awesome display of long-iron play.

Then at the Buick Open, where the course conditions could not have been any more different, where the strategy had to be completely opposite, Woods shot four straight rounds of 66.

The beauty of all this is that Woods still says he has things to work on. "Getting better," he said Sunday, then quickly acknowledging, "You never really get there."

LPGA ON TAPE: LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens has had her share of issues to deal with in her first year on the job, but one she really needs to address is the lack of live television coverage. And it's inexcusable at a major championship.

By the time the Women's British Open came on ABC on Sunday, Sherri Steinhauer had already accepted the trophy and given her victory speech. In these times when fans can follow what is happening on the Internet, what is the value in a taped telecast?

The five-hour time difference obviously has something to do with it for the British Open, but so what? Show the tournament live. The LPGA has this issue with several of its events.

LOPEZ ON WIE: Michelle Wie struggled for the first time this year in an LPGA event, tying for 26th at the British Open. On the same weekend, LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said the 16-year-old prodigy should forget about playing with men.

"I truly feel that whoever told her to go out on the men's tour and play has really misled her," Lopez said at the BJ's Charity Championship, one of four Legends events this year. "If she was my daughter, I would have let her play a lot of amateur events and win and beat the heck out of those girls. And she would have.

"I think it's important for her to play on the women's tour, day in and day out - play with us and know that she can win. I just don't believe she can ever win on the men's tour. My goal in golf was always to win. I hope that's her goal."

RYDER MOVE: Vaughn Taylor's tie for fourth at the Buick Open earned him enough points to move inside the top 10 in the U.S. Ryder Cup team standings with two weeks to go. He moved from 11th to seventh.