Four! Woods Reigns Again
You have to hand it to Tiger Woods. The guy delivers. Neither rain nor mud nor dark of day nor upset tummy could stop him from making his appointed rounds Sunday at the Bay Hill Invitational, where he shot a 68 and won by 11 shots -- his fourth consecutive victory in the tournament.
So the 2003 Woods scorecard looks like this -- four tournaments, three victories. If this is some kind of message, it’s a shout.
If there was ever a time when golf needed the equivalent of a 10-run rule, this was it. Score it as a first-round TKO, a leadoff homer, a runaway.
And there’s the fact that Woods clearly wasn’t feeling all that well, judging from the number of times he tried to vomit but there was nothing left inside, or how often he simply sat down on his bag and grimaced between shots.
Woods said he ate some pasta at his house Saturday night and felt sick immediately.
He even thought about going to the hospital, but wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get out, so he stayed home and tried to sleep on the sofa.
He said he vomited 20 or 30 times and wouldn’t have played Sunday if he had not been in contention.
“The night was long,” Woods said. “And the day was even longer.”
The only thing more consistent than Woods was the rain, which fell when he began his round and was still falling when he ended it.
Brad Faxon, who began the day five shots behind Woods, shot a 74 and lost six more shots, but he was still second along with Kirk Triplett, Kenny Perry and Stewart Cink. Faxon said he gave Woods some medicine at the 12th hole.
“I don’t think if he felt great, he could have played any better,” Faxon said in admiration.
Woods was eerily consistent in his mop-up job Sunday, with two birdies, an eagle and 15 pars. But he was just as consistent -- and dominating -- all week. That’s illustrated by his 19-under total of 269 and rounds of 70-65-66-68. No one else had three rounds in the 60s.
What’s more, Woods played the last 44 holes without making a bogey in difficult conditions at Bay Hill.
When Woods saw Faxon struggling with his driver to begin the round, Woods developed a strategy.
“I just knew if I could keep making a lot of pars, [it would] put a whole bunch of pressure on these guys,” Woods said. “I knew I would make my share of birdies and if I did that, then they would have to play some kind of special round to catch me.”
No one really had a chance.
It was over almost from the start. Woods took a five-shot lead over Faxon to the first tee, saved par at the second when he made a 14-foot putt and then did it again at the third hole when he sank a 12-footer.
By the time Woods steered a 13-foot putt toward the hole at the fourth and watched the ball disappear for an eagle, Faxon was the only player within 10 shots of him. And Faxon was eight shots behind.
“That kind of iced the cake right away,” said Faxon, who compared this experience with a similar situation at Torrey Pines when he and Woods were in the last group on the last day. Woods won then too.
“I think he walked slower today,” Faxon said.
As the rain kept falling, Woods kept his putts falling too, despite the heavy rainfall that drenched the greens. Actually, they held up well, even if you might have figured that putting on them was like rolling the ball over a sponge.
A far different story was the fairways, where small lakes began appearing in the afternoon. The worst was the 16th. Play was never halted because of accumulated rainwater, but PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle told Faxon that if any player had complained, he would have halted the round. No one did.
Faxon knew Woods wasn’t all there physically, but he didn’t really spend much time thinking about it.
“I didn’t think, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got a chance,’ ” Faxon said. “You kind of think, ‘That pain, he’ll withdraw and go away.’ That doesn’t happen.”
At the seventh, Woods sent a six-footer through the wet, short grass and into the hole for birdie to reach 18-under par. Faxon was closest to Woods at that point, if you call 10 shots close.
Woods said he thought the round was close to being called off when he looked at the weather forecast. That would have been fine with him, the way he felt.
Instead, Woods set out on his business and tried to pretend he wasn’t sick.
“I mean, just every single tee shot hurt because my abs were obviously sore from last night and continued on when I was playing,” he said. “I wasn’t looking forward to hitting drivers.”
And so on a very soggy, miserable day, the season’s first Woods-Ernie Els confrontation ended in a cold pool of water.
One guy was sick, shot a 68 anyway and won. The other guy shot a 77 and tied for 38th.
Woods wound up beating Els by 19 shots.
Here are the dominating facts:
* Woods is 65 under par in his four consecutive victories at Bay Hill and his 11-shot margin of victory is a tournament record.
* He is the first player in 73 years to win the same tournament four consecutive times.
* His 36 PGA Tour victories are 11th best; next are Tom Watson and Gene Sarazen at 39.
* In four tournaments this year, Woods has three victories and a tie for fifth.
* He has won $2,841,000 so far ($810,000 on Sunday) and leads the PGA Tour money list.
* His record for winning when holding a 54-hole lead in PGA Tour events is 28-2.
* He is a total of 41 under par this year in 12 rounds.
And the most impressive part? Woods says he feels his swing is on track with 2000 when he won the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship along with six other tournaments.
“Very similar,” Woods said.
Repeat After Me
Most consecutive victories of a PGA Tour event:
*--* 4 Tiger Woods, Bay Hill Invitational (2000-2003) 4 Walter Hagen, PGA Championship (1924-27) 4 Gene Sarazen, Miami Open (1926, 1928-30) 3 15 times, twice by Tiger Woods (Memorial, 1999-2001; World Golf Championships, 1999-2001)
Note: Miami Open was not held in 1927
A Good Year
A look at Tiger Woods’ season so far: