Who's afraid of big, bad Tiger? Everyone, it seems

Tiger Woods' focus and performance seem to have his challengers intimidated, says Tim Dahlberg. (Photo: Getty Images)
Tiger Woods' focus and performance seem to have his challengers intimidated, says Tim Dahlberg. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tiger Woods' challengers disappeared so quickly on Sunday that they could have stopped for lunch after nine and nobody would have noticed, says AP Columnist Tim Dahlberg. Is Woods that good or are the guys chasing him that bad?

By Tim Dahlberg, AP Sports Columnist

MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) -- The practice green can be a lonely place, even when it's surrounded by hundreds of people. Mike Weir and Geoff Ogilvy were the only ones on it Sunday afternoon at Medinah Country Club as they stroked their final putts in silence, looking like condemned convicts hoping for a reprieve.

Their tee time was just minutes away. Their chances of winning the PGA Championship must have seemed a million miles away.

Still, the starter was calling their names. And after all, second place money of $734,400 is a good payday even for millionaire golfers.

And somebody had to make sure all the spike marks were tapped down for Tiger Woods.

Not that it really mattered. The way these guys laid down for Woods, he could have won with caddie Steve Williams putting for him.

Jack Nicklaus used to intimidate his opponents. Woods frightens his.

He hadn't even stepped up to the first tee on Sunday and they were already falling apart. By the time his birdie on the first hole went up on the scoreboards, this major championship was pretty much history.

Woods' challengers disappeared so quickly they could have stopped for lunch after nine and nobody would have noticed. Not that they would have been able to keep it down, the way they kept spitting it up all day.

By the time it was over, it was hard to figure out who was more in awe of Woods, the players who had just spent four hours helping crown him champion or the schoolboys clamoring for his autograph.

"He's just better than us," a weary Ogilvy said. "Someone has to be the best. Why not him?"

Why do they even try?

Woods, as has been well documented, has never lost a major when leading going into the last round, and there was nothing in his game this week to indicate he would back up on a golf course he found to his liking.

But try they did, even though there was nothing in the pedigree of anyone chasing Woods to indicate that they would break this streak.

Weir had a Masters green jacket, but that seems so long ago. And Ogilvy's U.S. Open trophy should have a picture next to his name of Phil Mickelson collapsing.

Luke Donald probably had the best chance -- or at least the best view of Woods running over him. He was not only tied with Woods at 14-under going into the final round, but was paired with him in the final group.

Donald was feeling so good about his chances that he even showed up on the first tee in a red shirt -- a fashion faux pas since anyone knows red is Woods' color for the final round of a major.

Woods didn't seem too concerned about it, though he wasn't as sure about Donald's sense of style.

"I thought it was kind of weird to have a blue belt with it," Woods said.

Donald, a nice enough guy who probably didn't realize all that he was getting into, was a shot down after one, two down after four and four behind after six. Afterward, he tried to make something positive out of it all.

"I'll learn from this," he vowed. "I'll be a better player."

Chris DiMarco felt some sympathy for Donald. He had been there himself with Woods in a final round, only to leave empty-handed.

"You'd think -- you'd think -- going to the first tee, he'd be the one feeling the pressure because everyone's expecting him to win, and it's the exact opposite," DiMarco said. "He doesn't. The guy playing with him feels the most pressure."

That's the way it was with Nicklaus in his prime, too, with one big difference. Nicklaus had some challengers with majors credentials who weren't afraid to get into a shootout with the greatest player of his time.

Woods has challengers who seem to have trouble keeping themselves from genuflecting in front of him.

Which begs the question: Is Woods that good or are the guys chasing him that bad?

"He's that good," Nicklaus said Sunday. "The guy is playing just great golf, terrific golf."

When it was over on this day, Woods came out of the scorer's trailer, planted a big kiss on wife Elin's lips and walked hand-in-hand with her to the 18th green to pick up the Wanamaker Trophy.

His opponents were left scattered around the grounds, muttering to themselves and wondering who among them will some day finally rise to the challenge.

One thing for sure: Whoever finally does won't be conceding before getting to the first tee.

"I'm not sure anything ever bothers him," Shaun Micheel said. "I wish I had that feeling just once."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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