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Tiger Woods on another streak

Another shot safely on the green, Tiger Woods gazed toward the darkening sky in mid-afternoon when he heard the rumble of thunder from the horizon.

"We've gotten lucky so far," he said.

Within 20 minutes, the siren sounded to halt play at the American Express Championship, which was as close as anything came to stopping him Sunday. And even Mother Nature eventually relented.

Right now, there is no stopping him.

Threatened only by weather that twice delayed the inevitable, Woods turned in his most complete performance of an amazing year by closing with a 4-under 67 to win for the sixth straight time on the PGA Tour, matching the second-longest streak in tour history. Woods now is 109 under par during his streak.

The only suspense on a dreary day north of London was how the other numbers would stack up.

The margin of victory was eight shots over Adam Scott and Ian Poulter, the biggest blowout for Woods since he won by 11 shots at the 2003 Bay Hill Invitational.

He finished at 23-under 261, his second-lowest score over 72 holes in his PGA Tour career.

Woods went 36 consecutive holes without missing a green, a streak that ended on No. 12 right before the second delay, when he pulled his approach into a bunker and made the only bogey of his final round.

"This was a fun week," he said. "I hit the ball really well -- all 72 holes, really. It's fun when you can control your golf ball that well."

Another streak ended on the 567-yard closing hole, which Woods referred to as a long par 3 after he made eagle the first three rounds. This time, his chip from just short of the green rolled past the cup by a few feet, and he had to settle for birdie.

But that's not the streak that mattered.

In a week remembered for the death of Byron Nelson, Woods' sixth straight PGA Tour victory rekindled curiosity whether Lord Byron's record in 1945 of 11 consecutive victories really is untouchable.

Woods wasn't ready to touch that one -- yet.

"It's still a long way away," he said with a laugh. "If you look at it, I'm barely halfway. What he did was absolutely remarkable, and I'm just thrilled that I've been able to win six in a row twice. That to me is a pretty neat accomplishment in itself."

He also won the final four PGA Tour events in 1999 and his first two starts in 2000. Ben Hogan won six straight in 1948.

Woods' victory sent him past Nelson, Hogan, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer with his third PGA Tour season of at least eight victories. Woods won eight times in 1999 and nine times in 2000.

"He's dominating the game," Scott said. "It's not the first time he's done it, either."

The only hope Woods offered was when the trophy was securely in his hands. After playing seven times in the last nine week, he's ready to take a vacation.

"I'm getting away for a little bit," Woods said. "As far as golf, I've had enough of it for a while."

His next tournament might be the Tour Championship at the end of October, where he can match his 2000 total of nine victories.

Still undecided is whether he will play Disney in three weeks. Skipping that tournament, which has never been his favorite, would leave him one round short of being eligible for the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.

Asked how much that award meant, Woods replied, "Not much."

"I've had a good year," he said. "But if you don't play enough rounds, you don't play enough rounds."

He might come up short because of missing the cut at the U.S. Open for the first time in a major. That was his first tournament back since his father died of cancer in May, and Woods has been nearly unstoppable since then.

The only two tournaments he didn't win were the Western Open (a tie for second) and the World Match Play Championship two weeks ago at Wentworth, a European Tour event that does not count toward his PGA Tour streak.

Woods successfully defended his title for the fifth time this year, and he is 10-of-15 in World Golf Championships that are stroke play.

He won at The Grove the first two days by opening with rounds of 63-64 to build a five-shot lead, and never giving anyone else much hope. The closest anyone got to him on a dreary afternoon in this village north of London was Jim Furyk, his Ryder Cup partner.

Furyk got within five shots through five holes and was at 15 under when his approach to the sixth buried in lush grass on the side of a hill. The entire group searched for the ball, and it was located only because Ian Poulter inadvertently stepped on it. By rule, Furyk had to drop the ball in the same spot without penalty because of the outside interference.

Furyk then told rules official Mike Shea he was taking a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie because he would not have been able to play it had the group found the ball without Poulter stepping on it. He went back to the fairway and got up-and-down for bogey.

"I just felt like it was definitely taking advantage of the situation," Furyk said. "Ian did me a favor by finding the ball. Stepping on it probably was the only way we were going to get it. All that went through my mind, and I felt like I did the right thing."

Furyk closed with a 69 and finished fourth at 270.

Woods improved to 38-3 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the last round, and he has never lost when leading by more than one. Any thoughts about a collapse ended early, when Woods hit a long iron from 225 yards on the par-5 second that dropped softly over a bunker and stopped 3 feet away.

In one of his rare mistakes, Woods hit the putt too hard and it lipped out, making him settle for birdie.

The person carrying the scoreboard got confused and posted 20 under next to Brett Quigley's name, which came as a shock to some of the fans pressed behind the ropes down the third fairway. Those who had been following Woods all week knew better.

October 3, 2006

 




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