Wire to Wire

By Peter Aviles
Updated: July 17, 2005

Tiger hugging Nicklaus

Image courtesy of Getty

MAPLEWOOD, NEW JERSEY—The wire-to-wire win merely cemented what Tiger has been saying all along about his game. If there is any doubt about his game now, asked the competition. Monty, and 2005 U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell to name a few, understand that when they tee it up against Tiger, it is for second place. Circa 2000, it does not matter how well they play, it is how Tiger plays. If he is off, you have a chance, if not, forget about it. Now, it’s all about Tiger.

I was hoping for someone to stand up and challenge him, but even when Monty came close, or Vijay made a small run, they really were not a threat. Sergio made some noise with an eagle putt, and Jose Maria Olazabel tried to apply some pressure, but deep down you knew that in the end, it would be Tiger hoisting the Claret jug.

It seemed almost fitting with the retirement of Jack Nicklaus from major competition that the heir apparent would win. What you did not expect is the ease with which Tiger accomplished the feat. In retrospect, the only thing Tiger did not do was finish with a birdie as Jack did with a birdie which was just as well. No sense rubbing it in.

The final round saw a stoic and focused Tiger tee off on number one. As he maneuvered around the course, his play was so methodical that he seemed in cruise control, dare I say almost disinterested (though we know this is not the case) as he marched toward victory. Missing short birdie putts on the seventh hole gave a glimmer of hope to others.

There was visible emotion from Tiger on the eighth tee as he screamed at his tee shot. Apparently intimidated, Tiger’s ball listened and found the fairway; but as he did on the seventh hole, he again missed a short birdie putt. You could see that he was visibly miffed at the lost chance for birdie. The only question was whether others would seize the opportunity. Olazabel certainly could not. Neither could Monty who missed an eagle opportunity to get within one shot. Had Tiger made those birdies you could have said that the tournament was over at that point, but golf does not have the mercy rule like softball. One other thing was certain. Tiger was not going to pull a Van de Velde and collapse at the end.

Tiger’s eagle putt on the ninth hole came within a foot of the cup, but more importantly, he steadied the ship as he settled for par. Though there was adventure on the 10th because his tee shot found a bunker, once again, you knew he was ok. The misadventures of Monty and Olazabel gave Tiger the cushion he needed. All told, Tiger shot two under par for the round, and was the only one to finish double digit under par. There were only a few like Fred Couples (68), 3rd place, household names like Oglivy with an 89 tied for fifth with Bernhard Langer (71) among a with a few others who shot under par. However, they were never in contention and simply moved up the leaderboard and collected a bigger check for their efforts. Those who had a shot at the outset of the final round like Olazabel (74), Sergio (73) and Goosen with a 74, systematically eliminated themselves with poor play

In the post tournament press conference, Monty, who finished in 2nd place with a final round of 72 admitted he felt he needed a 66 which would have put him at 15 under to win tournament. If Monty was on his way to a 66, I’m sure Tiger would have kicked it up a notch and won anyway. However, it’s nice for Monty to dream of what might have been. For him, this was his best finish ever in a major so he can take solace in that.

An amusing moment during the Saturday press conference occurred when Tiger was asked if he thought he could win. “What kind of a question is that” he said somewhat indignantly and rightly so. That is a question better directed to the field. Do they think they can win? Based on his performances in the major tournaments this year, you have the answer, the question is will it be wire-to-wire?