String Theory

Just how long is Tiger Woods's winning streak?
March 03, 2008

TIGER WOODS makes history so often that trying to keep up with all the numbers can be bewildering. With his record 8-and-7 victory over Stewart Cink in Sunday's 36-hole final of the Match Play Championship, Woods won his 63rd PGA Tour tournament, exceeding Arnold Palmer's career tally and creeping within one of Ben Hogan for third place on the alltime list. That much is not in dispute. But in the golf salon there is some disagreement about how many consecutive tournaments Woods has won, an increasingly relevant debate because Tiger is playing such astounding golf right now that he seems primed to make a run at the game's most hallowed record, Byron Nelson's 11-tournament winning streak of 1945.

We can all agree that the Match Play was Woods's fourth consecutive PGA Tour victory dating back to last year, but during Sunday's coverage NBC credited Woods with six wins in a row. That's because in December he won the Target World Challenge, an unofficial event with a 16man field, and last month he prevailed at the Dubai Desert Classic, a sanctioned European tour event featuring a number of top players. When SI asked Woods on Sunday whether those tournaments should count toward his streak, he demurred, "I'll let you handle that." So we will. The Target is a glorified exhibition and can't be taken seriously, but given how global golf has become, Dubai deserves to be recognized in any pursuit of Nelson. After all, the first victory in Lord Byron's run, the Miami Four Ball, can be considered suspect because it was a team event and he had a partner, Jug McSpaden, to lean on.

Anyway, it is Woods's unrelenting brilliance that makes such abstract discussions necessary. We've already been down this road with him about what is and isn't a Grand Slam, in 2000--01, when he won four straight major championships spread across two seasons. Back then a compromise was struck in the nomenclature: Woods's epic achievement is now known simply as the Tiger Slam. It takes words as well as numbers to express Woods's effect on history.

Where's the Beef?

PRINCE FIELDER is a meat-and-potatoes hitter: Last year he led the NL in home runs (or taters, if you're hanging around the batting cage) and was third in RBIs (rib eyes or steaks). The 260-pound Brewers first baseman also became the youngest player to hit 50 homers in a season. So what has he been asked most about this spring? "Being a vegetarian," Fielder, 23, says. "The more attention I get for it, the more it helps me stay with it. If you don't stick to it, you're not real."

Fielder was an avid carnivore until a few weeks ago, when his wife, Chanel, gave him a copy of Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. The book, which answers the question of what Upton Sinclair would have produced if he had written self-help manuals, opened Fielder's eyes to conditions in slaughterhouses. Grossed out, he immediately swore off meat. "There's so much other food out there," he said. "Beans, rice, tofu. You've got a lot of good food, baby!" And when he reported to camp last week, the portly Prince looked as if he's been enjoying all of it. "I really haven't lost any weight," he says. "That's not what this is about. This is just something I want to do to be healthy."

Go Figure

12 Consecutive years that teams have had a winning record against players in baseball arbitration; the owners won six of eight cases that went to hearings this year.

120% Average salary increase for the 110 players who filed for arbitration this off-season.

$1.97 million Amount won by a bettor in Thirsk, England, last Friday on a $1 wager that correctly predicted the winners of eight thoroughbred races.

12 Years since a U.S. woman had won the World Cup downhill title before Lindsey Vonn clinched the 2008 championship.

0--29 Final record of the New Jersey Institute of Technology basketball team, which set an NCAA record for losses in a winless season.

577 Turnovers committed this season by NJIT, the only NCAA team with more turnovers than field goals (550).

21 Hours it took to finish the Auto Club 500; the rain-interrupted race was stopped after 87 laps on Sunday and was won by Carl Edwards on Monday.

947 Capacity of Campbell's Carter Gym, the second-smallest Division I hoops facility; Campbell played its final game there on Monday.

PHOTOROBERT BECK (WOODS)PUMPED Even by his lofty standards, Woods's play has been stellar this season. PHOTOALLEN FREDRICKSON/REUTERS (FIELDER)
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