Tiger’s in a league of his own
Tiger Woods again proved he is in a league of his own at Watford over the weekend as he cruised to a comprehensive WGC-Amex win.
Thank goodness for the Ryder Cup – and the HSBC World Match Play Championship.
Without them Tiger Woods might have left Europe’s top golfers in a real state of depression on his return to America on Sunday.
Once again the World No 1 has made the best of the rest, including Europe’s elite, look second-rate.
Once again, at the American Express World Championship at The Grove in Hertfordshire, he has dominated a tournament from start to finish, this time winning his 6th straight stroke-play event by all of eight shots.
And once again he has won the European Order of Merit – or at least he would have done if he was a member of the tour and was included on the list.
He does not play enough on the circuit to qualify as a member, so his name is nowhere to be seen.
However, if it was, Woods would not only be ahead of Paul Casey at the top, he would even be ahead if you added the earnings of Casey and No 2 David Howell together.
Their combined winnings from 42 tournaments are just under £3million. His from a mere 10 tour events are just over £3.5million.
And, if only he were eligible, it would be the fifth time in eight years he had topped the money list here.
That is how much he overshadows everybody else wherever he goes.
In every sense he is in a different league.- and since he is still only 30 that could be the case for another 10 years at least.
Adam Scott, who finished joint runner-up with Ian Poulter in the AmEx on Sunday summed it up this way: “We’re all up against it.
“I’ve got to start playing in the events he doesn’t play in, that’s for sure!”
The Australian, who at the age of 26 has now risen to a best-ever fourth in the world, was joking of course, but maybe there will be some who do look for alternative schedules.
That won’t be a problem for European-based players.
Woods will not be back on the continent until the Open championship at Carnoustie next July.
But the stars will, of course, continue their globe-trotting and will therefore find themselves up against Woods on a regular basis.
And they will have to come to terms with the fact that there will be weeks when he is untouchable.
As was for the case for Ian Poulter at the weekend.
“When Tiger got five or six clear he was going to be hard to beat,” he said. “So my goal was really to finish second and I just focused on my job.”
Doing that earned him over £320,000 and his resultant rise up the world rankings to 29th should guarantee him, among other things, a return to the Masters next April.
But that will be the week when Woods tries for a third successive major and a 13th altogether.
He reckons he is hitting his irons better than he did in 2000 – the season in which he won the US Open by 15, the Open by eight and the US PGA – and is hitting the ball 20-30 yards further.
“I think it’s interesting how I was getting ripped for making my swing changes, now here we are,” said Woods, who believes a swing must change with age.
“That’s why I made those changes. It’s nice to have the opportunity to do the things I know I can do in this game of golf.
“People always want to compare to the past and I know 2000 will always be the benchmark, but I’m trying to get better in the future.”
A scary thought indeed for his rivals, but a look at Woods’ statistics this year clearly show there is still room for improvement. A lot of it.
He is seventh in driving distance on the US Tour with an average of 306.4 yards, but down in 143rd place in accuracy with only 60.7% of fairways hit.
He is first in greens hit in regulation with 74.1%, but 141st in putts per round.
Doubtless he will be working on improving things. And there is no reason to think he will not succeed.
He is that driven. He is that determined. He is that good.
With the one exception of the Ryder Cup, of course.
by Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent
US Open day one: Rory McIlroy off to fast start as Justin Thomas takes the lead
McIlroy shot an opening round three-under 67 while Thomas carded a five-under 65.
Rory McIlroy flying high after opening round of US Open at Winged Foot
The Northern Irishman is two shots behind leader Justin Thomas, who shot a five-under-par 65 at Winged Foot.
A little more relaxation brings a little more action for Rory McIlroy at US Open
The Northern Irishman shot 67 on the opening day to sit two behind clubhouse leader Justin Thomas.
Prayers answered for Rory McIlroy as US Open hopeful makes speedy start
The Northern Irishman is two shots off the lead after an opening 67 at Winged Foot.
WATCH: Tiger, Rory, Rahm and DJ on what makes Winged Foot so difficult
Golf’s big buns give their thoughts on the tough test that lies ahead at the US Open.
WATCH: Social media star pays tribute to Mickelson with special US Open song
Take a listen to the most heartfelt and emotional song about Phil Mickelson ever created.
All eyes on USGA when the 120th US Open gets under way at Winged Foot
The fact that last year’s championship took place without controversy over the set up of the course was a welcome relief for the organisation.
Tiger Woods ranks Winged Foot as one of the most difficult courses ever
Tiger Woods is under no illusions as to the challenges facing the field when the US Open tees off at Winged Foot on Thursday.