Originally created 08/08/06

50th win puts Tiger on pace to set record



It was the one time Tiger Woods could be accused of setting the bar too low.

He is three weeks away from the 10-year anniversary of his pro debut - "Hello, world," he said on Aug. 27, 1996, in Milwaukee - when his only goal was to earn his PGA Tour card without having to go through qualifying school.

The first victory came six weeks later in Las Vegas when Davis Love III became the first of his many victims. By the end of his first full year on tour, Woods already had six victories and one major championship. That's a career for Tom Lehman.

And Woods has shown no sign of stopping.

After five full years, he was at 29 victories and six majors, and he was the youngest to win the career Grand Slam.

Ten years, three swings, two coaches and one marriage later, Woods hit another milestone Sunday when he collected his 50th title on the PGA Tour, a victory that looked like so many others. He overpowered the course, built a 54-hole lead and dared anyone to catch him.

About the only thing he couldn't do was grasp the magnitude of the milestone.

"I've had a lot of just really wonderful things happen to me on tour in my career so far in 10 years," Woods said. "Been very blessed. Started out my career just hoping to get my card and I was able to do that. And lo and behold, I got on a nice little run.

"It's been a great ride, really."

It has been a ride like no other. At 30 years and seven months, Woods became the seventh player - and the youngest by three years - to hit the half-century mark in PGA Tour victories. Jack Nicklaus was 33 when he captured his 50th career victory at the 1973 PGA Championship.

"Tiger Woods is so talented that if we cut holes in the asphalt, he'd find ways to win," former Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton said in a recent interview. "You can't get away from Tiger no matter what you do."

He has won nine times in a playoff. Nine other victories were by at least five shots. Woods has 10 victories in his native California, nine in his adopted home of Florida and he used to win more often in Ohio than the Bengals.

"We haven't seen an equal of that in the last I don't know how many years," Jim Furyk said after finishing three shots behind at Warwick Hills. "Definitely, my era hasn't seen it."

The number that identifies Woods - for now - is his 11 majors. He has been chasing Nicklaus' benchmark of 18 majors since he picked up his first one at the 1997 Masters Tournament. Now, however, the 50 victories bring Sam Snead's record of 82 career victories into view.

Greatness ultimately is measured by majors, which is why 18 resonates more than 82. But at this rate, Woods might reach Snead's mark before he gets to Nicklaus.

"That's also a big number," Woods said. "It's going to be a lifetime, a career, basically, to get to that point and attain something like that. ... Hopefully, I can continue playing well over the next 10, 20 years."

At this rate, he won't need that much time.