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Tiger's still a force, but...

By Neville Leck Last updated: 30th January 2013

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Tiger Woods heads for victory Monday

Tiger Woods heads for victory Monday

At 37 going on 38, it's not likely that Tiger Woods will ever again be able to dominate the game of golf in the regal manner that he did in his prime.

But after his 75th PGA Tour triumph and his eighth victory at San Diego's famed Torrey Pines on Monday there is no doubt that the world number two remains a force to be reckoned with.

When he was at his best at the turn of the century, Tiger never missed a cut and won big and often.

In 2000, he shook the golfing world to its very foundations with six consecutive wins, the longest winning streak since 1948.

And perhaps even more important than this feat was the fact that one of those victories set a string of records in the major they like to call the toughest of them all - the US Open.

Tiger won it for the first time, his two previous major titles having been annexed at the Masters in 1997 and at the USPGA in 1999 - and truly won it galloping away.

Incredibly he triumphed by a record 15 shots in beating Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jiménez at Pebble Beach.

In all he broke or tied nine tournament records in that event and was lauded by the authoritive Sports Illustrated as having produced "the greatest performance in golf history."

And that was only the beginning

He was still only 24 when he became the youngest golfer to achieve the Career Grand Slam (holding all four major titles at the same time) with his victory in the 2001 Masters.

He seemed to still be rampant when he won the US Open for the fourth time in 2008 at yes, Torrey Pines, to bring his total number of major titles to 14 (they also included four Masters, three Opens and four PGAs).

But it would soon come to be learnt that this Torrey Pines victory had come at a great cost.

He ended the tournament with a serious knee injury that together with the subsequent break-up of his marriage following traumatic revelations by the media that he had been committing serial infidelity, it abruptly slammed the breaks on his career.

He didn't win another full-field tournament again until last year and in the 4½ years since his last US Open triumph at Torrey Pines, he still has not added to his 14 majors as he pursues Jack Nicklaus's record 18.

The fact that only nine days ago he missed the cut in his season-opener at the Abu Dhabi Championship in the United Arab Emirates tended to take away some of the glitter from his three, stellar come-back victories last year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Jack Nicklaus' Memorial and the AT&T National which he himself had hosted.

But the fact that not much more than a week later he was able to bounce back on Monday to win the Farmers Insurance Open by all of four shots once again highlight the continuing threat he poses to the game's new 'Young Turks'; to the latest 20-something world number one Rory McIlroy and to the other not-much-older, post-Tiger major winners like Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson.

Woods, playing on a course where he has won more often than at any other, did actually extend his lead to eight at one stage in Monday's fog-delayed final round, and although the late wobble that saw him bogey four of his last five holes will certainly have come as sobering lesson, it was not enough to cost him victory - and it is not likely to stop him winning again in the coming months.

That he'll add more PGA Tour titles to his current 75 is not in question, but whether he can win another five majors, the number he needs to snatch away the 'Golden Bear's' major record, is something else - if only because the wear and tear of his eventful and much publicised life and times seems to have made him just that little less super-human and just that little more brittle..

Neville Leck



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