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Tiger is back -- still hungry

With three PGA events to go, Woods has something to prove.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The much-deserved vacation is over, meaning the Tiger Tour is back. And don't expect him to go through the motions.

If anybody ever deserved to cruise into the last three official events of the PGA Tour season -- including this week's National Car Rental Golf Classic, where he is the defending champion -- it is Tiger Woods.

He long ago clinched the PGA Tour money title with more than $8.2-million; and with nine tournament victories, he has more than any player in 50 years.

But Woods doesn't take it easy. He does not coast. He finds a way to motivate himself, as was the case Sunday during the Presidents Cup.

The United States had all but reclaimed the Cup from the International team, but Woods would not let up in his singles match with Vijay Singh. Perhaps it had something to do with Singh's caddie having the words "Tiger Who?" stitched into the back of his cap. Or maybe it was Woods' huge desire to win, no matter who the opponent.

When Singh left himself a short par putt, Woods would not concede. "I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Woods said. "I made him think about me. If he's thinking about me, he's not going to think about what he's going to do.

"I was looking right at him. My eyes were locked right on his. He can look and smile all he wants. That makes it even better. That means I know he's thinking about me instead of what he wants to do."

Woods went on to win the match 2 and 1 and is set for his first stroke-play event in six weeks. The last time we saw him in such a situation, he was hitting a 6-iron 218 yards out of a fairway bunker to wrap up the Canadian Open, his ninth PGA Tour title of the year and third in a row.

After winning three straight major championships, the Open championships of the United States, Britain and Canada, nine tour titles, what's left?

Woods will attempt to defend his fourth title of the year at the Walt Disney World Resort, where he won by one shot over Ernie Els a year ago, kicking off a streak in which he won the last three tournaments of the year.

A victory would give him 10 for the year -- no player has double-digit victories in a season since Sam Snead in 1950.

"I've always felt that it's possible; but you need to be in position to win every week, and from there it's up to the golfing gods," Woods said. "Sometimes they look upon you in a good way, and other times they don't.

"I've been very lucky, some of the breaks I've gotten down the stretch to allow myself to have an opportunity to win, not only to win but have an opportunity."

No doubt, Woods has given himself chances. In fact, he is seemingly always there, in position. In addition to his nine wins, Woods has three seconds, a fourth and a fifth. In 17 events, he's finished out of the top five just three times.

Asked, however, if he had accomplished all of his goals for the year, Woods replied, smiling: "I'm not quite there yet."

Woods has the opportunity to cross the $10-million mark in season earnings, a number that is even more remarkable when you consider that just 15 players in the history of the game have earned that much in their entire careers.

Although he can't match Byron Nelson's record 18 victories set in 1945, Woods can match Nelson's percentage of tournaments won. Nelson captured 18 of 30 for a 60 percent victory ratio. If Woods wins at Disney, next week's Tour Championship and the season-ending American Express Invitational in Spain, he would have 12 wins in 20 starts, also a 60 percent victory ratio.

Woods is also in position to set records in six statistical categories, five of which he is ahead of the current mark: scoring, greens in regulation, birdies, eagles and all-around. He also has a shot at breaking the record for putting.

Can anyone stop him? Although he had huge victory margins at the U.S. Open, British Open and NEC Invitational, Woods got all he could handle from Bob May at the PGA Championship and Grant Waite at the Canadian Open.

"He's by far the best I've ever seen," said John Huston, a two-time winner at Disney who is coming off a win Sunday at the Tampa Bay Classic. "You just have to look at it on that day. If you can shoot a good score, then you're going to have a chance against him, no matter what he does.

"It's kind of hard to block out how he's playing if he's driving it 40 yards past you on every hole. And the last couple years, he doesn't ever seem to miss a putt when he really needs it. It's probably like the guys who were playing against Jack (Nicklaus) when he was winning everything. You have to beat them with your putter most of the time."

Woods said: "It's really satisfying to know that the countless hours you put in are paying off. It's rewarding to go through that, the building process, have it come together and post good scores, post the wins, win the big ones."

* * *

Facts and figures

PGA Tour

WHAT: National Car Rental Classic.

WHEN: Today-Sunday.

WHERE: Lake Buena Vista.

COURSE: Walt Disney World Resort, Magnolia Course (7,190 yards, par 72); Palm Course (6,957 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $3-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $540,000.

TV: 3-6 p.m. today, noon-4 p.m. Friday, 3-5:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN; 4-6 p.m. Sunday (tape), Ch. 28.

NOTES: Tiger Woods won last year. ... The United States defeated the International team 21 1/2 -- 10 1/2 at the Presidents Cup in Gainesville, Va., on Sunday.

LPGA Tour

WHAT: Cisco World Challenge.

WHEN: Friday-Sunday.

WHERE: Chiba, Japan.

COURSE: Sohsei Country Club (6,404 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $765,000.

WINNER'S SHARE: $40,500 (each).

FORMAT: Friday and Saturday, best-ball stroke-play matches; Sunday, 12 singles stroke-play matches.

NOTES: The United States LPGA defeated the Japan LPGA 15.5-8.5 last year. ... Karrie Webb won the AFLAC Champions in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday to clinch player of the year.

Senior PGA Tour

WHAT: SBC Classic.

WHEN: Friday-Sunday.

WHERE: Los Angeles.

COURSE: Wilshire Country Club (6,610 yards, par 71).

PURSE: $1.4-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $210,000.

TV: 4-6 p.m. Friday, 5:30-7 p.m. Saturday, 6-7:30 p.m. Sunday, ESPN.

NOTES: Joe Inman won last year. ... Hale Irwin won the Kaanapali Classic in Lahaini, Hawaii, on Sunday.

European PGA Tour

WHAT: Italian Open.

WHEN: Today-Sunday.

WHERE: Sardinia.

COURSE: Is Molas.

PURSE: $1.2-million.

WINNER'S SHARE: $170,000.

TV: 9 a.m.-noon today-Sunday, Golf Channel.

NOTES: Dean Robertson won last year. ... Padraig Harrington won the Madrid Masters on Sunday.

Buy.com Tour

WHAT: Tour Championship.

WHEN: Today-Sunday.

WHERE: Dothan, Ala.

COURSE: Highland Oaks (7,407 yards, par 72).

PURSE: $550,000.

WINNER'S SHARE: $99,000.

TV: 1:30-4 p.m. today, 2:30-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Golf Channel and Fox Sports Net.

NOTES: Bob Heintz won last year. ... Scott Petersen won the Inland Empire Open in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., on Sunday.

Other tournaments

JAPAN GTO: Philip Morris Championship, today-Sunday, Tojo.

Who's hot

Although he has not won a tournament in more than two years, Davis Love is playing at a high level. He showed it at the Presidents Cup, where he had a 4-0 record for the Americans.

Who's not

Vijay Singh couldn't buy a putt at the Presidents Cup, where he looked lost on the greens. Given Singh's putting woes, it's amazing he won the Masters in April at Augusta National on some of the most treacherous greens in the game.

Quotable

"It's a miracle, after the way I played Friday, that I was even around to be in a position to win. And I hit some pretty wild shots (Sunday). But I just had good karma all week. A lot of good things happened."

-- John Huston, after his victory at the inaugural Tampa Bay Classic.

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