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Tiger Woods dominance returns

Five years ago, a common complaint by golf fans was that the game had become too boring with the rampant Tiger Woods barely being challenged by his rivals.

Between August 1999 and June 2002, the remarkable American won seven majors out of 11 and his aura of dominance was widely accepted by fans and players alike.

However, he then embarked on the second major revamp of his swing since he turned professional in 1996 and, for a while, suffered a lean spell.

His accuracy off the tee, never a strong component of his game, became a struggle and he was asked repeatedly at tournaments to defend his decision in late 2002 to part company with swing coach Butch Harmon, under whose guidance he won his first eight majors.

He remained winless for 10 majors in a row, got married towards the end of last year and lost his world number one ranking to Fijian Vijay Singh.

People began to question if the Tiger would ever regain the dominance that was once taken for granted.

This year, though, has been a very different story.

Woods ended his victory drought at the majors with a playoff win at the U.S. Masters, finished second in last month's U.S. Open at Pinehurst and coasted home to a five-shot win in the 134th British Open at St Andrews on Sunday.

Any doubts expressed by fans over the world number one's major appetite have been cast to the wind and the golfing world is now preparing for a similar script of Tiger dominance.

"He's setting the bar so high, he's so strong and he's just a great player," fellow American Fred Couples, the 1992 U.S. Masters champion, said after tying for third at the Open.

Britain's Colin Montgomerie, who finished alone in second place on Sunday, said: "There are a few people cursing their luck now, people who say they should be major champions.

"But you have to beat Tiger. If he stays fit and healthy, he has 10 of these majors now and we all know Jack (Nicklaus) had 18 and he's over halfway now. It's amazing.

"Can he achieve the impossible? He's on his way and all credit to him."

The record career tally of 18 majors owned by Nicklaus has long been a target for Woods, who clinched his 10th with his second Open triumph at St Andrews.

He now stands third in the all-time listings for major winners, behind Nicklaus and Walter Hagen (11), but at the age of 29 is well ahead of the Golden Bear on win rate.

Nicklaus, who made an emotional Open farewell at St Andrews two days ago, secured his 10th grand slam title when he was 32.

"It's pretty cool," said Woods, who started the week as red-hot favourite for the title and duly delivered. "I've kind of gone one past halfway. Jack's got 18, now I have 10.

"Man, I tell you what, when I first started playing the tour, I didn't think I'd have this many majors before the age of 30. There's no way. No one ever has.

"Usually the golden years are in your 30s for a golfer. Hopefully that will be the case for me."

Five years ago, former world number one Nick Price told Reuters: "Tiger wins something like 30 percent of tournaments he plays in, and that's an exceptional win rate.

"When Tiger is playing well, he is going to win. If Tiger plays well and the other guys play well, he is going to win. It's as simple as that."

Those words hold equal validity today. Woods clinched his fourth PGA Tour win of the year in 14 starts on Sunday.

The long-running Tiger show, after a brief spell off air, is very much back on track.


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