— It is yet another way to address the genius of Tiger Woods to consider that his winning streaks often match his losing streaks.
OK, that’s a bit of an embellishment, because he once went winless on the PGA Tour for a whopping 16 events, while his best winning streak is a mere seven, but you get the point. Woods is about stringing victories together, while rarely going into prolonged droughts.
Tell me who else in the history of the game could own that sort of blueprint?
If you require some more perspective, consider that since Woods arrived on the PGA Tour scene in 1996, he has put together a stretch of consecutive victories nine different times, while Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and David Duval have done it a combined 10 times.
We mention this because — surprise, surprise — Woods is in the midst of yet another winning streak. He’ll tee it up in this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational in search of his fifth consecutive PGA Tour victory, dating back to last season’s BMW Championship, and if you’re thinking it falls under the heading of “Dog Bites Man,” that’s because it has become rather ho-hum material.
Well, in the past 54 PGA Tour seasons there have been just three winning streaks of four or more tournaments — and all belong to Woods. In addition to the roll he’s on now, there were the seven straight he won in 2006-07 and the six in a row in 1999-2000. Not yet 33, Woods has registered winning streaks of at least three tournaments a whopping five times, which is even more impressive when you consider that Arnold Palmer did it only twice, while Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson did it just once each.
During Woods’ time, only Duval in 1997 and Singh in 2004 have put together three-tournament winning streaks. Singh has on two other occasions won two straight, Duval has done that one other time, while Els has done it twice and Mickelson three times.
So, Woods is all about doing things routinely that others find difficult? That’s pretty much the case, though in some regards this streak he’s on is more fascinating than those in 1999-2000 and 2006-07. Part of that stems from the fact that he’s not only winning, he’s crushing the competition. When he won those six straight events, his average margin of victory was 1.66 strokes. When he won seven in a row, it was 3.28. In other words, you could always nitpick and argue that had an opponent — let’s say Els, Miguel Angel Jimenez, or Stewart Cink, all in playoffs — gotten a break, Woods wouldn’t have extended those streaks, but there are no such doubts on this current roll. His three stroke-play wins have been by an average of six shots and the other win was an 8-and-7 match-play evaporation of Cink, which translates into something like a 12-shot win.
In all of his brilliant stretches of play, never has Woods appeared as dominating as he has been since late last summer. If you work into the equation every tournament in which he’s played – official and unofficial throughout the world — Woods has won eight of nine starts going back to the Bridgestone Invitational last August. Seven of the wins have been in stroke-play format by an average of 5.14 shots, with three triumphs coming by eight shots.
No wonder he is overflowing with a confidence that shines through with a demeanor he has not often displayed. Whereas in the past Woods has brushed aside talk of a possible Grand Slam, earlier this season he nodded his head when asked if he could win the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship.
“I’ve won four times in a season before,” said Woods, who has reached that win total a staggering nine times in 11 full seasons. “All you have to do is win the right four.”
Such confidence doesn’t change the long odds of pulling off the improbable feat, but it sure provides an indication that Woods is of a positive mindset like never before. Making this current streak even more intriguing is what’s on the horizon for Woods — two tournaments that should make him feel like he’s wearing his favorite pair of slippers.
Palmer’s gathering at the Bay Hill Club affords Woods not only the chance to sleep in his own bed for the 20-minute drive, but it’s a course on which he once won four straight times. That particular streak came to a halt in 2004 and Woods has put up indifferent finishes in each of the last four springs – his best being a T-20 – but with so much riding on this week’s tournament, you can be sure that his focus will be sharper than it was in those efforts.
If he were to return to the winner’s circle at Bay Hill, thus giving him five in a row, Woods would barely catch his breath before pushing off on a bid for No. 6 — at another comfortable venue, no less. The Blue Course at the Doral Resort & Spa in Miami has seen five visits from Woods, with victories in each of the last three. During that three-year stretch, he has gone a robust 54-under in 12 rounds and only once has he fired an over-par score, so if you conclude that he’s in position to run his winning streak to six, give yourself a birdie.
And if he were to produce victories at Bay Hill and Doral, imagine the delectable result? He’d drive down Magnolia Lane April 10 with a chance to win his seventh straight PGA Tour event and second consecutive major championship, and even for a guy who has turned this streak business into ho-hum material, that would push the needle in a northerly direction.