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Gulf still remains between Woods and everyone else
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Golf is still Tiger Woods and everyone else. He still doesn't have a rival, only occasional lapses.

"To play as well as I have of late and not get the Ws has been a little frustrating, no doubt, because I've been so close," Woods said on Sunday after blowing away the field at the BMW Championship. "It's just been a matter of making a couple putts here and there and I would have won the tournaments.

"That," he said very matter-of-factly, "is all the difference it was".

So much for the whispers about Woods looking more like a flinching Tiger than a crouching one. They began when little-known YE Yang caught and passed him at the PGA Championship last month - guaranteeing Woods would go without a major for the first time in four years - then intensified when he failed to make a 7-footer that would have forced a playoff at The Barclays two weeks after that.

But the guys who have to face Tiger every week knew better.

Gulf still remains between Woods and everyone else

Asked just before last week's Deutsche Bank Championship whether Woods was running low on magic, Australian Geoff Ogilvy, a US Open winner and one of the most thoughtful guys out on tour, didn't hesitate.

"I don't think everybody stands on the tee and says, 'He's going to give me a chance'. The best thing about it," he said, "is that the media will stop giving Tiger the tournament after 36 holes."

Jim Furyk, who finished second, conceded that when he teed off: "I kind of had my eye on second place." But once he saw Woods had dipped to 15 under - following a bogey at No 5 - "I started thinking, well, what if? What if he's 14 now? What if he made another bogey?"

A few minutes passed.

"I asked my caddie where he stood. He said, '17', " Furyk recalled, "and I just started laughing."

It's better than crying, certainly, but it was also a telling moment. The guys chasing Woods have started drinking protein shakes and working out, they've hired sports psychologists to steel their psyches and NASA-grade scientists to draw up shot-dispersion charts.

Doesn't matter.

When Woods plays well, everybody else is still playing for second.

Returning to the tour after surgery to repair a shredded left knee, Woods has now won six times in 16 starts. His results in the past six events he played - three firsts, two seconds and an 11th - would be a career for lots of guys.

Just this past March, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia - both mentioned as potential rivals in the last decade - had a chance to capitalize on Woods' absence for the second half of last season and move into the No 1 spot in the world ranking. Six months later, Woods has more than doubled his point lead over the current No 2, Steve Stricker, who also owns the second-highest win total, three.

"I haven't won as many times as I did in 2000, didn't win any majors this year, but ... I've never had a year where I've been this consistent, either, this many high finishes in the number of events I've played," Woods said.

(AP via China Daily September 15, 2009)

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