Tiger stretches his tour streak to 7
Published 5:43 am Monday, January 29, 2007
By By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
SAN DIEGO — Tiger Woods is more interested in a fifth green jacket at the Masters than 11 straight victories on the PGA Tour.
At this rate, he might have a chance to get both.
Woods resumed his improbable pursuit of Byron Nelson with a predictable result at the Buick Invitational on Sunday, winning for the third straight year to stretch his PGA Tour winning streak to seven. That’s the second-longest streak in tour history behind Nelson in 1945, and there is little evidence anyone can stop him.
Woods caught up to the pack with a 3-wood from 276 yards to set up a 25-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole. He buried the hopes of his final challenger with a 9-iron to 2 1/2 feet on the 17th hole for birdie. His final act was figuring out how to get his ball out of a small hole in front of the 18th green, hitting it with the edge of his sand wedge to 3 feet for a par and a two-shot victory.
It gave him a 6-under 66, the best score all week on the demanding South Course, site of the U.S. Open next year. Nelson’s record often has been thought to be untouchable, which now describes the world’s No. 1 player.
This is the second time Woods has made a run at Nelson, who died in September.
Woods won six straight in 2000, a streak that Phil Mickeslon stopped at Torrey Pines. But against a cast of challengers short on experience or victories, Woods met little resistance in winning at Torrey Pines for the fifth time in 10 tries.
The only question is the veracity of the streak — Woods failed to win once in Europe and twice in Asia during his run — and when he will resume his chase of Nelson’s mark.
Woods believes his winning streak ended when he lost in the first round of the HSBC World Match Play Championship last September, a European tour event. The PGA Tour record book only reflects its own tournaments.
All that matters to Woods is his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 professional majors. Woods has won two majors during his PGA Tour streak, taking him to 12 for his career.
Asked if he would rather have a record winning streak or another Masters victory, Woods didn’t hesitate.
Woods left for the Dubai Desert Classic — an 18-hour flight — and said he wasn’t sure if his next PGA Tour event would be the Nissan Open at Riviera that starts Feb. 15, or the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona a week later.
Woods finished at 15-under 273 for his 55th career victory, and the fifth time he has started a season by winning.
He got some help from tour rookies Andrew Buckle and Jeff Quinney, both of whom had at least a share of the lead on the back nine until stumbling in a span of about 15 minutes on a cool, breezy afternoon at Torrey Pines. Each took double bogey to quickly take themselves out of contention, leaving only Howell to challenge Woods.
Howell, who played with him at the 2003 Presidents Cup, nearly pulled it off. He made three birdies in a four-hole stretch and had a 50-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but he played it too high over the ridge and three-putted for par and a 68.
Brandt Snedeker, the 26-year-old rookie who opened the tournament with a 61, was tied for the lead with Buckle going into the final round but didn’t make a birdie until the ninth hole. He shot 71 to finish third. Buckle (72) was in the group another shot back.
Woods erased a two-shot deficit in four holes, but Buckle bounced back with an approach into 6 feet for birdie on No. 5, and nearly reached the par-5 sixth green from the right rough to set up a simple up-and-down birdie and a two-shot lead. And even after a roar that resonated across the course, Buckle didn’t blink.
Woods hammered a 3-wood from the ninth fairway to 25 feet and holed the putt for eagle and a share of the lead. Buckle was walking up the ninth fairway to his tee shot, calmly taking a drag from a cigarette. He looked up when he heard the cheer, flicked the cigarette to the ground and stomped it out, then birdied the next two holes.
He still had a two-shot lead over Woods and Quinney when he reached the 12th tee, but his tee shot caught a corner of grass on the edge of a fairway bunker, and that’s when everything collapsed.
Buckle’s feet slipped in the sand as he struck the ball, which sailed well to the right and left him little green between a bunker and the flag. Attempting a flop shot to give himself a short putt at par, it came out too strong and tumbled over the green on the other side. He pitched to 4 feet and missed the putt, taking double bogey.
Quinney also disappeared, trying to play a perfect bunker shot that came up short and led to double bogey on the 14th.
As quickly as those two contenders vanished, Howell emerged. His 8-iron grazed the cup on the 15th for his third birdie in four holes, but that was as close as he got.
Woods’ streak resumed after a nearly four-month break from the PGA Tour, when he won by eight shots in the American Express Championship outside London on Oct. 1. He skipped the season-ending Tour Championship and the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, and learned that his wife was pregnant for the first time.
One thing that hasn’t changed is his golf.
The PGA Tour winning streak dates to his victory in the British Open last July, and Woods is now 124-under par during that stretch. More impressive to him is that since missing the cut at the U.S. Open, he has not finished worse than second in stroke-play tournaments.