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Litke: Only Tiger can cool Tiger off at Southern Hills
In tying a major record for low score with a 63 on Friday, Jim Litke says, Tiger Woods got closer to perfect than he ever has in one of golf's big four events. And now, it seems, no one can stop him from ending his year with yet another major title.
By Jim Litke, AP Sports Columnist
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The man never runs out of surprises.
Most of the people who don't have to play against Tiger Woods tuned in to the PGA Championship wondering whether he might end his season with a major. Woods showed up at Southern Hills wondering about the same thing he does once he sets foot inside the gallery ropes: How much better can he get?
Woods finished Friday closer to perfect than he ever had in one of golf's big four events. His driver spent much of the round in the bag. His short-iron play was as sizzling as the weather. And if his next-to-last putt at the 18th hadn't rebounded against the back of the cup and spun out, Woods would have been closer to perfect than anyone else ever had been in a major.
"It would have been a nice little record to have," Woods said after an eight-birdie, one-bogey, record-tying 63 rocketed him to the top of the leaderboard and a two-shot cushion at the midway point of the tournament.
Tiger playfully called it a "62 1/2," and if you think that unauthorized horseshoe dance his ball performed at the final hole wasn't bugging him, you don't know the man at all. Woods already had his putter raised in his left hand toward the sky, like an exclamation point, then dropped it like a bad idea.
His rivals felt just as empty, but for a different reason. John Daly spoke for a lot of them when he walked off the course moments after Woods tapped in.
"How," Daly asked without expecting an answer, "do you cool Tiger off?"
You don't. Woods knows it, and so does everybody else on the leaderboard looking up at him.
Only Tiger cools Tiger off.
"He does pretty well when he leads off of two rounds," said Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who was three strokes back, "and even better when he leads out for three rounds."
True -- if 7-0 as the second-round leader and 12-0 as third-round leader qualifies.
"So, I guess this is kind of ominous," Ogilvy continued. "But at some point he's not going to win."
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But somebody should have reminded Ogilvy that pulling Tiger's tail is the worst way to go about it. Stephen Ames, who was tied with Ogilvy at 137, tried it last year when he drew Woods in the opening round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play championship and got smoked by a record 9 & 8. Rory Sabbatini did the same thing in May, calling Woods "beatable" after getting drummed at the Wachovia Championship only to get thumped even harder last weekend at Firestone, where Woods essentially lapped the field Sunday.
When someone pointed out the connection between him and Sabbatini, Ames started backing away.
"Mine was taken out of context completely. And I won't get into that," Ames said, though he knows better.
Though Woods would never admit as much, he keep close track of those tugs on his cape. He gets a kick out of punishing people, but he's always in pursuit of bigger game.
He got off to a fast start both days, birdieing three of the first six holes but got waylaid at the start of the back nine Thursday and stumbled home in 1-over 71. On Friday, he made a 30-foot, par-saving putt at the 12th, then started going after Southern Hills. Woods birdied the next three, and the chase was on.
Pars at the final three kept him from writing a new page in golf's record books, but the round still qualified as must-see TV. When it was done, someone asked Woods whether he'd ever been as captivated watching anyone else as the rest of us were watching him.
"There was a lot of different ones. Just what sport? It's pretty much anything and everything," Woods said. "We've all seen it. Whether it was from Gretzky or Jordan. Whomever it may be.
"I always think it's fun to watch if they're performing that way at the championship game when the title's on the line. Some guys just seem to take it to the next level."
Woods appears headed there yet one more time, this time at the end of a season of major championships in which he's never looked more vulnerable. At the Masters and U.S. Open, Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera both outdueled Woods down the stretch. At the Open Championship, he never seriously threatened.
Woods waved off any attempts to characterize this singular outing as special or a statement round.
"I was just trying to get myself back in this tournament. And lo and behold, here I am. Sixty-two," Woods said, grinning slyly, "would have meant I had a three-shot lead instead of two."
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.