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Tiger Woods dominates 2006 season

Now that the dust has settled on the 2006 PGA Tour, the remarkable season produced by Tiger Woods can be placed in its proper context.

The world number one was almost unstoppable en route to two major victories and six other titles in just 15 starts, despite a nine-week break to cope with the illness and subsequent death of his father.

He triumphed in his last six events and became the first player to win at least eight times on the world's biggest tour in three different seasons (1999, 2000 and 2006).

Fellow Americans Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer achieved the feat twice.

Woods ended his campaign as the PGA Tour's leading money-winner with $9,941,563 in official earnings and posted the lowest adjusted scoring average of 68.11, the second best of his career.

That average earned him the Byron Nelson Trophy for the seventh time in eight years but he missed out on the Vardon Trophy because he failed to play in the minimum of 60 official rounds.

To qualify for the Byron Nelson award, a minimum of 50 rounds is required. Woods carded 52, having withdrawn from the Nissan Open in Los Angeles after two rounds and missed the cut in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

What made his golden season even more astonishing is the fact that he has spent much of the last three years revamping his swing for the second time since turning professional in 1996.

He and coach Hank Haney have strived for greater consistency but 12-times major winner Woods, ever the perfectionist, is not yet satisfied.

"Overall, my swing is getting closer to where I want it," he said in his monthly newsletter.

"It might sound old, but I just need more repetitions and consistency. The game is fluid and always changing.

"Am I more consistent? Yes. In my opinion, only two players have ever owned their swings: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan."

Canadian Norman was renowned for his superlative ball-striking while American Hogan, probably the first player to develop a rigorous work ethic, won nine majors between 1946 and 1953.

"Will I ever own my swing?" added Woods. "We'll see. I'm still somewhat young in my career. Hogan wasn't great until his late 30s."

The prospect of the world number one getting even better in his late thirties is the last thing his rivals need to hear.

It is already widely accepted that Woods, when he produces his "A" game, is unbeatable.

All too often, he has enjoyed a psychological hold over his peers in golf's elite events and his career haul of 12 majors exceeds the combined totals achieved by Phil Mickelson (three), Ernie Els (three) and Retief Goosen (two).

"He won more than 50 percent of the tournaments that he played this year, and that's mind-boggling to me," Paul Azinger said during a conference call this week after being named the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

"He's set tournament records in just about every tournament he's won.

"There's a whole other standard out there and right now it's as hard for us to win as it was for the guys who were playing against Jack (Nicklaus)."

Woods won the last two majors of the year, the British Open and the PGA Championship, after missing the cut at the U.S. Open, his first tournament back following the death of his father on May 3.

Hardly surprisingly, the 2006 season will always leave a bitter-sweet taste in his mouth.

"It has been a long, challenging year, especially off the golf course," said Woods, who is playing in this week's Champions tournament in Shanghai.

"Nothing could make up for losing my father, but I know he would have been proud of the way I rebounded after missing the cut at the U.S. Open by winning six straight PGA Tour tournaments, including two majors.

"Dad taught me to never give up. Although it has been difficult at times to concentrate on golf, I have continued to work and fight and good things happened."

November 9, 2006

 




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