By Peter Aviles
Updated: January 30, 2006

“I’m a survivor (What?) I’m not gon give up (What?) I’m not gon stop (What?) I’m gon work harder (What?) I’m a survivor (What?) I’m gonna make it (What?) I will survive (What?) Keep on survivin’ (What)

NEW JERSEYI don’t know if Tiger is a fan of Destiny’s Child, but he had to be thinking and humming the lyrics from their hit song “Survivor” as he did just that surviving a three way playoff to win the Buick Invitational for an unprecedented fourth time. The win by Tiger in his 2006 debut propelled his second decade as a golf professional off to a rousing start.

The way this tournament was being contested, it seemed that no one wanted to win. Unheralded Nathan Green, ranked 256 in the world, lead for a good stretch down the back nine until he ran into trouble starting with a bogey on the 15th hole. He recovered from this to make a great par save on 16 after hitting into the bunkers off the tee. However, success was fleeting when he bogeyed 17 falling into a tie with a host of competitors at nine under. Only a birdie on 18 positioned him for a potential playoff.

Jose Maria meanwhile held the early lead but could not sustain it. There was a point where the play was so poor it almost became unwatchable, where the analysts as well as members of my household were begging, “someone please make a shot.”

Tiger, though struggling all day with his driver (he had the shaft replaced on the driver. Perhaps the 1 for 14 in fairways had something to do with it) and putter, managed to make the putt when needed on 18 to get into the playoff with Jose Maria and Nathan Green, much to their dismay.

Back to the 18th hole went the trio for the first playoff hole. You had to think Tiger had the advantage having a record of eight and one in playoffs (his only loss was to Billy Mayfair in the 1998 Nissan Open when Mayfair birdied the first hole.) However, this advantage quickly became a disadvantage when Tiger’s tee shot found the left rough. Olazabal, who historically is not known as a good driver of the ball had his own problems off the tee. Green was dead center in the fairway. This advantage quickly disintegrated when Green’s second shot flew into the stands behind the green essentially ending his chances. Olazabal meanwhile held tough as Tiger recorded a par for the hole eliminating Green from the playoff.

On the second playoff hole from the 16th tee, Jose Maria Olazabal found the bunker while Tiger found the green. After a great bunker shot, Jose Maria missed a short par putt that would have extended the playoff giving the victory to Tiger. This was reminiscent of Tiger’s last playoff victory over John Daly when Tiger won on the second playoff after Daly missed a short putt giving Tiger the victory. Tiger, early in his press conference, acknowledged how poorly he putted saying ”quite frankly, I shouldn’t have probably even been in the playoff….and I wasn’t putting very good at all.”

When asked how he felt about the way he won, referencing the last playoff win, Tiger said “JD is a friend of mine, and Ollie has been a friend since I was an amateur. I feel bad. I want to win with a birdie. I had a chance to make birdie on 18 on the first playoff hole to win it right there, just hit a bad putt. You don’t ever want to see anyone miss a short one like that.” And when reminded that a win is a win, he continued by saying “you don’t ever take pleasure out of seeing your friends do that.”

Looking ahead, the next event is the Dubai Desert Classic, a PGA European Tour event on a sponsor’s invitation, going against 2005 winner Ernie Els, and 2004 winner and friend Mark O’Meara. He will have to do better than survive in order to win, but on second thought…