Monday, March 17, 2008

Woods with 12 straight? Here's how...

I’ve long contended that the most unbreakable record in sports is Byron Nelson’s streak of 11 consecutive PGA Tour victories set in 1945. It may not last the summer.

Was there any real doubt Sunday afternoon as Tiger stood over the 24-foot birdie putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational that he was going to make it? Arnie himself was standing behind the green and told the person he was standing with that Tiger was going do what Tiger seems to always do.

Johnny Miller hinted at it on television when he pointed out that Tiger had not made a putt longer than 18 feet all week and – boom – there it was. What we’re seeing is the essence of greatness. I didn’t think we’d ever see another run that came close to Tiger’s roll in 2000 and 2001 but this one may soon be as good. Tiger says he’s a better player now than then.

Want to argue with him? He’s won five tour events in a row and seven straight worldwide. Run the numbers out and he’s won nine of his last 10 tour starts. Not bad.

So where does he go from here? He’s the obvious favorite at the World Golf Championship at Doral this week, where he only wins when he tees it up. That’s No. 6.

Two weeks off and it’s the Masters. He hasn’t won there since 2005. Make it No. 7. Then two weeks off and he’s here for the Wachovia Championship. Who’s going to beat him? That’s No. 8. It gets dicey at No. 9.

You get the sense that Tiger doesn’t love The Players Championship, certainly not the way commissioner Tim Finchem wants him to love it. He’s won there, so it’s checked off his to-do list, but if you’re looking for a likely place he won’t win, the Stadium Course jumps out. But, the way he’s playing and to play this idea out, let’s give him No. 9.

Then it’s off to the Memorial where he can win No. 10 in front of Jack Nicklaus. Where does he get the record-tying No. 11? The U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Count it.

I know it strains the imagination – even by Tiger standards – to think he could win 11 straight but he’s nearly halfway there. And if he got that far, what about No. 12? His tournament – the AT&T Classic – in Washington on Fourth of July weekend. Still think it can’t happen?