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Tiger seems back in that 2000 zone

By BOB HARIG
Published September 7, 2006


As if getting to that level once is not enough, Tiger Woods is often asked about his 2000 season and how his game compares with that magical year when he won nine times and captured three straight majors.

It almost seems silly to think about doing it again, but here is Woods with five straight victories and seven overall. It is hard not to wonder if he is coming close to the greatness of six years ago.

What likely separates that season from this is the fact Woods had some remarkable blowout victories. He won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes, then followed with an eight-shot victory at the British Open. He played 20 tournaments that year and finished all under par.

But after his victory Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, it is not so silly to suggest this year is close.

He has won seven times in 14 starts, including two majors and a World Golf Championship event.

"People are always looking to compare 2000 to 'now that he's winning but not winning by as big of a margin,' " Woods said Monday after his victory. "But I'm still getting W's. I hit it great and I putted well and I got some really lucky breaks during that stretch, and basically I'm doing that same thing now.

"I have more shots now because of so many more years of experience and knowing how to get my ball around the golf course. Then again, the competition's gotten better as well."

While Woods doesn't win in as dominating a fashion as he did then, you could argue that this is more impressive because of who he has to beat. In 2000, Woods had yet to establish himself as the dominant player he was about to become. He started to win like nobody before.

Then he hit a lull, and others emerged. Vijay Singh won nine times in 2004, including a major championship. Phil Mickelson won three out of nine majors - more than Woods. Retief Goosen won two U.S. Opens. Ernie Els won a British Open and contended in several majors.

"Everyone has been hitting the ball longer, everyone is stronger," Woods said. "It's become that much more difficult to win a golf tournament. So I've kept up the pace. I've pushed myself to do the same."

Ryder Cup woes: Normally it is the Americans who have the internal issues heading into the Ryder Cup. But while the U.S. team bonded last week with two days of practice, it was the Europeans who were sniping. First it was Colin Montgomerie, who chastised Jose Maria Olazabal for not being at the BMW International Open in Germany. Olazabal became annoyed with captain Ian Woosnam for questioning his motives for taking the week off.

But the biggest blow came from Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, who was left off the team in favor of England's Lee Westwood. Bjorn understandably questioned why Westwood would get the nod despite a lower world ranking and position in the Ryder Cup standings.

What really rankled Bjorn, however, was the way it was handled.

"I found out that I was not in through watching television," Bjorn said.

"How can that be right? Ian has put a lot of people through misery because he just hasn't done the right thing."

Bjorn added: "Ian Woosnam has definitely gone down in my estimation. So far his captaincy is the most pathetic I've known."

Bjorn has since been fined by the European Tour and apologized to Woosnam.

Around golf: Barb Jensen, who has worked at the local Champions Tour event since its inception, resigned to pursue other interests. Jensen started with the 1988 GTE Suncoast Seniors and stayed with the event as it evolved into the Verizon Classic and now the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. Her most recent duties included coordinating hundreds of volunteers for the event. In February, the tournament celebrates its 20th year. ... A day before Woods shot 63 to win his 53rd PGA Tour event, Annika Sorenstam shot 62 to win her 69th LPGA Tour event. This week she tries to win the John Q. Hammons tournament in Tulsa, Okla., for the third straight year. ... Corey Pavin is last on the PGA Tour in driving distance (199th out of 199 ranked players) while Aaron Baddeley is last in greens in regulation. Yet both have won tournaments this year. ... Peter Jacobsen is scheduled for surgery Saturday to have his left hip replaced. The Champions Tour player hopes to return to competition in November.