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Crouching Tiger

National | Special things tend to happen once Tiger Woods approaches a milestone.

Issue: "Army of compassion," April 5, 2003

Special things tend to happen once Tiger Woods approaches a milestone. In 1997, at the nearly adolescent age of 21, he captured his first Masters green jacket. And in 2000 he won three consecutive majors and nine straight tournaments.

By all accounts, 2003 was supposed to be a quiet year for Mr. Woods. He missed two months of competition while recovering from knee surgery, but then again Mr. Woods had a chance to make history.

With a win at the Buick Invitational in February, Mr. Woods earned his 35th tour victory-halfway to catching Jack Nicklaus. If the feat of catching the Golden Bear seems still far off, consider this: Mr. Woods earned his 35th win as a 27-year-old. Mr. Nicklaus reached that milestone after his 31st birthday.

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It's easy to be ho-hum about Mr. Woods's success. The best golfers in the world occasionally best him. And Mr. Woods's fourth-straight victory in the Bay Hill Invitational only became news when he stepped off the course several times during the final round to vomit. For the record, Mr. Woods was suffering from food poisoning, and though he winced after every drive, he played a bogey-free final round.

The only other time Mr. Woods has captured three tournament titles before the Masters was 2000 when he went on to have the record-setting year. "I feel just as good as I did in 2000," he said. One more fact in Mr. Woods's favor: No golfer has ever won the Masters three times in a row. But with Masters victories in 2001 and 2002, Mr. Woods will have the opportunity to rewrite that record also.

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