(AP) – Vijay Singh had a smile on his face when it was over, the kind of dazed smile we should be accustomed to by now because it’s been on the faces of a lot of guys who have teed it up in recent weeks against Tiger Woods.
Singh didn’t have much to say. There wasn’t much he could say.
Really, there’s not much left to be said.
If you’re counting, Woods has now won five tournaments in a row. Watch him shoot a 63 in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Classic and you wonder how he can possibly lose again.
He will, of course, because golf can be a maddening game, even if your first name is Tiger. Someone may even come from behind some day and beat him at a major championship, as improbable as that might seem.
For now, though, be content to watch greatness. Savor the moment so you can tell your grandchildren you were there during the day when one man was so mentally tough and physically gifted that he could seemingly will his way to victory.
Enjoy him, because golf may never see the likes of a Tiger Woods again.
He’s already the greatest player of his time. Barring injury, he’ll become the greatest player of all time sooner than anyone ever thought.
What has to frighten his fellow players is that the best may still be coming.
“Everything can always be better,” Woods said. “This game is fluid. It’s always changing, it’s always evolving and you can always get better. That’s the great thing about it. You can get better tomorrow than you are today.”
The words might sound arrogant, coming as they do from someone who has won five tournaments, including two major championships, in a row. But the best always have a touch of arrogance in them, and Woods is no exception.
Besides, he really believes it.
He overhauled his swing once even after winning big early in his career. He did it again after winning seven of 11 majors at one stretch, presumably because he figured he should have won them all.
Woods is close to becoming a billionaire but, in an era of pampered pros who are content just to earn a nice living, he plays as though he doesn’t have two coins to rub together.
If possible, he’s more obsessive about remaining the best than he was at becoming the best.
“I could always hit the ball better, chip better, putt better, think better,” Woods said.
There wasn’t much Woods could have done better on the front nine on Monday when he caught Singh with an eagle and birdie in the first three holes and was never really threatened for the rest of the way. Give Singh some credit because he tried when others would have given up, but the result never seemed in doubt.
It didn’t on the back nine at the U.S. PGA Championship either. Or, for that matter, on the final round of the British Open.
So now it’s five in a row, though you get the feeling that Woods isn’t as impressed with the winning streak as his fellow competitors might be. It’s a career to them, but to the game’s best player it’s merely a summer fling.
That’s partly because Woods has already won six in a row once, the last four he played in 1999 and the first two the next year. And even he considers the record of 11 straight during the final year of World War II by Byron Nelson almost unapproachable.
The only thing that really matters to Woods is major championships, and almost lost in the talk about his streak is that he owns trophies from the last two. He’ll go into next year’s Masters as a prohibitive favorite to win his fifth green jacket, and a win at the U.S. Open at Oakmont would give him the Tiger Slam for the second time in his career.
Assuming he wins those – and it’s hard to assume against Woods the way his game looks right now – he would have a chance to win the real Grand Slam and edge tantalizingly close to the record of 18 major championships now held by Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus, of course, is generally regarded as the best player ever. But he never won tournaments in bunches like Woods is doing, and he never held all four major titles at once like Woods has a chance of doing for the second time next year.
Woods needs only 21 U.S. PGA Tour wins to pass Nicklaus for second place in overall wins, and seven major championships to overtake him in the category that means the most. He’ll get those, and by the time he’s in his mid-30s he will likely break the record held by Sam Snead of 82 tour wins.
By then, Woods won’t have anybody left to chase. He will have to motivate himself by trying to set the bar so high that no one will ever break his records.
Knowing Woods, he will do just that.
The great ones usually do.