- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

Two thoughts crossed my mind as I read about Tiger Woods' gastronomic adventures at Bay Hill on Sunday:

Thought No. 1: Aren't Tigers supposed to be able to digest just about anything raw hippo, shrunken heads, used tires?

Thought No. 2: She can cook! Not only is Woods' girlfriend, Elin Nordegren, possessed of ample amounts of va-va-voom, she makes pasta for him on Saturday nights! Granted, her culinary efforts rendered Tiger a retching mess in the final round, but he still managed to eke out an 11-stroke victory.

(I can hear Costantino Rocca now: "If she'd been around to make him pasta at Augusta in '97, I could be wearing a green jacket. Mama mia!")

By winning Arnold Palmer's tournament for the fourth straight time, Woods resurrected the name of yet another Dead White Golfer in this case Gene Sarazen, who had been the last to win an event four times in a row (the Miami Open in the late '20s and early '30s.)

I love it when Tiger does that, don't you? When he ran away with the U.S. Open by 15 strokes three years ago, we got to hear about Old Tom Morris (who had captured the 1862 British Open by 13). When he reeled off six consecutive victories in '99 and '00, we were reminded of Ben Hogan's similar streak in 1948. Tiger is a History Channel unto himself. No wonder the old guys like him. He helps keep their era(s) alive.

His domination at Bay Hill is getting pretty ridiculous, though. Maybe the PGA Tour needs a new rule: Anytime Tiger wins on a golf course four times, the place gets declared a national historic site and the tournament gets moved to a new location. (Besides, he's collected so many dark-blue blazers for his Bay Hill triumphs that they're probably beginning to invade Elin's side of the closet.)

Anyway, so much for Ernie Els' "challenge" to Woods' hegemony. Just a month ago, you may recall, people were saying the "Big Easy" might be ready to offer Tiger some serious competition. He had won the Mercedes, won the Sony, won overseas. He was about as hot as a golfer gets aside from Our Man Eldrick, that is.

Woods, meanwhile, was just returning to the game after having minor knee surgery. Who knew how long it would take him to get his growl back? The answer, of course, was four days. He won the first tournament he played, the Buick Invitational, tied for fifth the next week in the Nissan Open and has racked up victories at the Match Play Championship and Bay Hill in his two outings since.

Els was entered in those last two events at least, that was the rumor. He got eliminated in the first round of the Match Play and finished a mere 19 shots back in Orlando. In other words, just like old times.

Ernie won't be teeing it up in the Players Championship today, by the way. He says he hurt his wrist two weeks ago while working out on a punching bag in his garage in London. These golfers must have a lot of pent-up frustration if they're whaling on punching bags between tournaments. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Els has a picture of Woods taped to the bag.

Another no-show in Ponte Vedra is Phil Mickelson, whose wife just gave birth to his third child. You've gotta hand it to Lefty. Not only is he the Best Player Never to Win a Major, he may soon be the Best Procreator Never to Win a Major.

As for Tiger, he's merely off to the best start of his career. He's so good now that whenever he shoots over par he's done it twice in four events a national day of mourning is declared. (Somehow, though, he ranks only 12th on the tour in all-around performance, which takes into account driving, iron play, putting and, apparently, the ability to digest pasta. Seriously, folks, how can a player who has won three times in four tournaments, whose scoring average is more than a stroke better than anyone else's, be ranked behind Tim Herron in the all-around? Unless, by all-around, you're talking about waist size.)

Already, his competitors are starting to sound like cabin boys on the Ship of the Damned. After Woods held off Brad Faxon and fettucine alfredo (or was it lobster ravioli?) to win at Bay Hill, Jeff Sluman said, "I think he could beat us on one leg if he had to."

Actually, Tiger did that last year, when he became the first player to win two majors on one leg since Long John Silver. This year, it seems, he's eyeing other feats and other Dead White Golfers.

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