Hate to be Rude: Tiger already has the Bethpage lead

Tiger Woods won the Memorial with a closing 65 in which he didn’t miss a fairway.

I can’t recall the last time someone sent such a screaming message entering a major. I just know that someone was Woods.

He removed any doubt and reinserted an awe-inspiring dominance. When Woods drives the ball as straight as Fred Funk (plus 50 yards), the rest of the PGA Tour reverts to that uncomfortable place where second looks like the ceiling.

I’m not sure what Nick Faldo said of the victory because he was mumbling again, but I know what past CBS analysts would have said: “Any questions?”

Yeah, here’s a question: How much did Woods’ flawless finish spike depression in other players and, in turn, ramp up the sports psychology business?

I think Woods on Sunday might have been the first player in golf history to win two tournaments with one round. I mean, doesn’t it already seem he has a three-shot lead at the U.S. Open?

I have heard a veteran golf journalist for weeks now say that about 10 guys have a chance to win the U.S. Open at the monster called Bethpage Black. That might be nine too many now that Woods just got done hitting 49 of 56 fairways.

• Woods didn’t just achieve the 2009 Arnie-Jack double; he did so in spectacular fashion, with the legendary hosts watching by the 18th green.

March, Bay Hill: Woods holes a 16-foot birdie putt at 18 in near-darkness. Arnold Palmer watches nearby and shakes his hand.

June, Muirfield Village: Woods clinches with a 7-iron approach to a foot at 18. Jack Nicklaus watches nearby and shakes his hand.

Reads like fiction. But then much of Woods’ career does.

• We don’t need to relive this because we just lived it for eight months.

But Woods’ brilliance at the Memorial got us to thinking again how different the game is without him.

The top of the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index gives you an idea of what the top of the game would look like if Woods had never come along: Nos. 1-5: Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Steve Stricker and Luke Donald. Nos. 7-9: Ben Curtis, Kenny Perry and Robert Allenby.

(FYI: Woods is a couple of events away from having enough starts over the past year to re-enter the rankings.)

Little wonder the overnight ratings of the Memorial final round were double last year’s, when Woods didn’t play.

• A stat/computer freak friend of mine was talking up Furyk the other day, saying Furyk has 16 top-30s in 23 starts over the past year.

That is some nice consistency but with an omission: Furyk hasn’t won in almost two years.

Point is, the prize is victory, not top 10, 20 or 30.

Furyk might be playing better than anyone except Woods these days, but let’s get real: You could fit a galaxy between those two. Since July 2007, Woods has won 10 of his 18 PGA Tour starts (55.5 percent) and Furyk has won zero of 43 Tour starts (0 percent).

And since we’re on the “top” subject, Woods has been outside the top 22 in stroke play zero times on the PGA Tour since the 2007 Players, once since the 2006 U.S. Open and twice since the 2005 Deutsche Bank.

Top that.

• On the other hand, comma ...

A day after winning yet another $1.08 million at the Memorial, Woods cut short a U.S. Open practice round at Bethpage after teeing off 18. His exit stage right left more than 100 spectators wanting. They were waiting for him at the green.

This avoidance of the public prompts two questions:

1. WWAD. What would Arnie do?

2. Once word spreads around Long Island, who will get a warmer welcome at the Open, Tiger or Phil?

You know the answers.

• Nicklaus missed by a mile at U.S. Open sectional qualifying Monday in Memphis. Yeah, you read it right.

But it was Nicklaus Newcomb, an amateur from Benton, Ky., who shot 74-79–153, 15 shots out of a playoff.

It was not known at press time whether his parents would have named him Palmer had their surname ended in P.

• I like Jim Furyk. He’s a standup guy if not a standup comic. But I wouldn’t recommend his annoying step-away, fake-you-out pre-putt routine to anyone.

Several reasons come to mind. If everyone on the course did that on a Saturday morning, rounds might take 7 hours, blood would be shed, insurance claims would rise and most people would quit the game.

But it works for one man. Let’s just hold it to one. Or, come to think of it, none.

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