The legend of Tiger Woods keeps growing

Tiger Woods has never looked so invincible. The world’s No. 1 golfer faced a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Bay Hill, and the moment he settled over the ball and the crowd grew quiet, it no longer mattered that Woods had not made a putt this long all week.

This one was for the win.

For most players, making such a clutch putt would be a career highlight. For Woods, it’s more like a summer rerun.

Arnold Palmer whispered to those around him right before Woods rapped his putt down the slope and watched it turn sharply to the right and tumble into the cup for a one-shot victory.

For Woods, it is the ultimate thrill.

Woods already has his game at warp speed, and he’s lapping the field. His victory Sunday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational was his fifth in a row on the PGA Tour and his sixth straight worldwide, a streak that spans six months and is the longest overall of his incomparable career. When he won seven straight tour events in 2006-2007, second only to Byron Nelson’s 11 in 1945, Woods lost three times overseas.

Now, even the purists must wonder if Woods can go an entire season without losing.

Steve Stricker said Monday. Woods’ latest victim was Bart Bryant, who did everything right and never felt so helpless.

Bryant twice made birdie to tie Woods for the lead, shot a 67 in stifling heat and waited in the scoring trailer to see if Woods could beat him. There was no television in the trailer, and Bryant didn’t need one.

Stricker felt that way outside Chicago the second week in September, when this winning streak started. Woods went on to a two-shot victory.

He can sympathize with Bryant.

Golf is more global than it was a half-century ago, so Woods’ winning streak is complicated. This is the third time he has won at least five in a row, and he also won on the European Tour last month, shooting a 31 on the back nine to rally from a four-shot deficit.

And he won the Target World Challenge in December, although that doesn’t count because it was a charity event that Woods hosts for 16 top players from the world ranking. For what it’s worth, Woods won by seven shots.

Woods is so dominant that he has won seven of his last eight times on the PGA Tour, the exception being a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Labor Day. It’s just incredible. Woods birdied three straight holes to win.

Ernie Els added to the hype when Woods went eagle-birdie-birdie to beat him in a playoff in Hawaii to start the 2000 season.

With each victory, Woods adds another layer to the legend.

Woods hinted as much when someone asked what could stop this winning streak.

Next up is the Masters, where Woods is a four-time champion. He is the defending champion at the Wachovia Championship in North Carolina. In fact, he has won every event on his schedule.


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