Could The Best Be Yet To Come?

Kyle Blum

After his front nine on Sunday, Tiger Woods thought he would need a seven-under-par, 30 on his back nine to have any shot at winning the Dubai Desert Classic. What he shot was a six-under-par 31, good enough to secure the win. He birdied five-out-of-his-final-seven holes, including his last two holes to win by one shot. Tiger has won both events in which he has played in the 2008 golf season. This blistering pace at which Tiger has opened this season has left the entire golf world in awe. His win at the Buick Open was perfect. The leader after Day two, Tiger shot 66 and 71 on the weekend to win the tournament by a record setting eight strokes. In a truly dominant performance, Woods seemed to have control of the tournament from wire to wire. One of his fellow competitors went so far as to say that there were two golf tournaments that weekend, and that he was just trying to win the one Tiger wasn’t playing in.

Winning his first two tournaments shows how committed Tiger is to dominating the PGA tour all season long. In past years, Tiger has geared up only for the majors, giving his highest level of preparation to the most important golf tournaments. This year, however, it seems as though each and every tournament is going to see Tiger at his best. Those who know him well believe that this season is eerily reminiscent of the 2000 season when Tiger broke an unprecedented number of records. He set scoring records at the U.S. Open (-12), the British Open (-19), and the PGA Championship (-18). He became the youngest player ever to be ranked #1 in the world at just under 22 years of age, a record previously held by Bernhard Langer who had been 29. His 2000 season holds the record for lowest scoring average of all time at 68.17. Despite all of the records he set that year, he is now better than ever before. Jack Nickalus announced to the golfing world that he thinks Tiger is going to win this year’s Grand Slam, all four majors in a single season. While this might seem to be a lofty goal, the scheduled courses are set up well for Tiger to accomplish this historic feat. He has won the Masters four times. The U.S. Open is being played at Torrey Pines, where he just won by eight shots. The British Open is being playing at Royal Birkdale where Tiger has finished in the top five. The final major of the year is at Oakland Hills. Although Tiger has not been successful at Oakland Hills in the past, the sheer magnitude of the situation would compel him to play his best golf, which is nearly impossible to beat. The odds in Vegas are 4-1 against Tiger winning three or more majors this season. To put that into perspective, the odds of any other player winning one major are at best 7-1, meaning its more likely that Tiger will win three than that Phil Mickelson, the world’s number two player, will win one.

Although Tiger has been the best in the world for over eight years now, a golfer typically doesn’t reach his peak until he reaches his mid-30s. At 32, conventional wisdom would suggest that Tiger’s best years are ahead of him and that this season could be the beginning of that evolution. While the old Tiger was consumed with record setting scores and annihilating his competition, the new Tiger plays a more conservative game on the weekend. What this means is that while it is unlikely that he will break many of his scoring records from 2000, he will make it nearly impossible for anyone to catch him once he’s taken the lead. Tiger is the best front-runner in the history of sports. He has a 31-6 record when leading after 36 holes in Tour events and a 42-3 record when leading after 54 holes. Woods is 13-0 when going into the final round of major with at least a share of the lead and he has never lost any tournament when leading by more than one shot after 54 holes.

To put it all in perspective, consider this fact: The difference between Tiger and Phil Mickelson, according to the world golf rankings, is greater than the difference between Phil and the number 1000 player in the world.