Tour Players Queue Up To Announce Tiger Gives Them Wood
Tiger Woods, fresh from his eight-shot victory in San Diego last weekend, will tee off at the Dubai Desert Classic this morning in the knowledge that, even if he does not believe in his invincibility those he will be playing against appear to have reached an altogether different conclusion.
"People ask why we don't stand up to this guy. The fact is we are not as good as he is," said Thomas Bjorn when asked to consider his chances of prevailing against the world No1 this week. "It all depends on Tiger. It could be all over by Friday. You can't allow him to be five or six clear by the weekend because you won't catch up. He won't allow you to catch up. If someone stays with him, more often than not he will beat you but sometimes not."
If anyone should know what it takes to beat Woods it is the Dane, who played with him in all four rounds of the 2001 Desert Classic and won the tournament. That was the landmark moment of his career but, if anything, it reinforced Bjorn's view of Woods as a player apart. "The sooner people accept that we are second best, the more chance they have to live up to our potential. If you are trying to beat him, good luck. You are not going to do it. He is not going to let you. I don't think that is defeatist - it is realistic," he said
Defeatism or realism, there is a lot of it about on the driving range here this week, where even the normally cocksure Colin Montgomerie, Woods's playing partner for the first two rounds, was quick to assert his own inferiority to the world No1.
"I still want to learn and I still want to improve and the only way of doing that, I believe, is playing with better players and playing with players you feel are better than you - and he certainly is better than me," the Scotsman said. "I am not going to beat Tiger Woods by hitting the ball any further than him or hitting my irons any better than him or by holing any more putts than he does. I am not going to beat him physically or mentally. The only way I am going to beat Tiger Woods is playing like Colin Montgomerie."
Woods is coming to the tournament after a longer break than usual but he said ominously: "I have always played pretty well coming off breaks. My practice sessions were really good and I am really excited about going out and playing. I still have self-doubts, it's part of the game and part of life. You have doubts but you have to keep pushing through it and improving and have a game plan to execute and you go out and execute. I can't control what other players do. It's not a sport where you can influence someone else, you just have to control your own business and see where you are come Sunday afternoon."
When so many others are queuing up to boost your ego there is little need to pucker up and play a tune on your own cornet but Woods's recent run of form, which has produced six victories in his last seven events, has obviously impressed even the great man himself. He clearly wants to win this week but equally clearly his sights are set on an altogether more significant achievement: winning all four majors in one season - the grand slam.
"It is all about playing well at the right times and getting lucky," he said yesterday of his chances of making history. "You have to have everything go your way but the only thing I can control is my own play and hopefully I can peak at the right time, four times, and it will be good enough." In the understated but fiercely competitive world of Woods, all of that can be accurately translated as, "You bet I can".
After playing in the pro-am Woods said of the course: "The greens are a little slower than they have been, the rough is up a touch and they have narrowed a couple of the fairways. It is playing a touch longer, the balls are not really rolling as much but, if the wind doesn't blow like today, the guys are going to shoot low."