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PGA Tour Confidential: Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer Invitational
Fred Vuich/SI
Tiger Woods won his 66th career title on Sunday.

Every week of the 2009 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Greetings fellow golfheads, and welcome to another edition of PGA Tour Confidential. What a week it was. Tiger stealing the show, again, in Arnold's house. Tiger's buddy and neighbor Mark "Marko" O'Meara trying to win on the Champions Tour in luscious Cap Cana — and coming up short again. Karrie Webb, who still owns one of the most beautiful swings in all of golf, going low in Phoenix as the LPGA — you remember the LPGA — returns to the continental United States. As the kids say, it's all good.

This week, a special guest: my friend Mike Donald, who won on the PGA Tour as a caddie (at age 15) and as a player, who played with Arnold Palmer in a Silly Season event, and who played in Arnold's Bay Hill tournament a bunch of times, with a fifth-place finish in 1981. Welcome Stat Man (as Fred Couples and Lance Ten Broeck use to call him) and welcome back everybody else. Sean O'Hair began Sunday with a five-shot lead over Tiger, and they went to 18 all even. We all knew how that was going to end.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: This whole thing looked eerily familiar all day, with one minor difference: For today's performance, in the role of the overmatched younger challenger in the TaylorMade cap, the role of Sergio Garcia was played by Sean O'Hair.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I played college golf against O'Hair's instructor, Sean Foley, a Canadian with a mind equally rich on Malcolm X and Homer Kelley. Between Foley, Bob Rotella and caddie Paul Tesori, O'Hair might have the best team in golf.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Or too much information.

Morfit : The other tournament this reminded me of, in addition to all the ones where Tiger has owned Sergio, was the 2007 Players. O'Hair never looked very comfortable playing against Phil Mickelson on Sunday, either, missing a handful of very makable putts at the end.

Bamberger: How much is Tiger doing for Arnold with this stuff? Arnold, in his pink shirt and blue blazers, standing right there as Tiger performs incredible acts. You can see how much the two men like each other. Arnold, getting near 80, must be getting such a lift out of this.

Donald: Even Jack has to be amazed by the number of times Tiger has done this — 66 wins. Six more and he will be at even-par 72.

Jim Herre, editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: Good to see Tiger so into it and then cut loose emotionally at the end. He's back, and right on schedule. Amazing.

Evans: Other than Jordan I can' think of anyone in sports history who has delivered more on-command winners.

Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It's a short list, to be sure. Reggie Jackson. Joe Montana, maybe.

Shipnuck: Jordan missed plenty of potential game winners. Tiger has only missed one putt that mattered, against O'Hern a few years ago at the Match Play.

Bamberger: Mike, and everybody else: how would you compare Tiger's intimidation factor to Jack's and Arnold's?

Evans: I think Nicklaus was more intimidating because he had shots and power that no one else had in his era. Shot for shot, Tiger can be matched, but no one can make the clutch putts like he can. Nicklaus truly played a game that his peers were not familiar with. Tiger is the best at a game that everybody has to have to survive on tour.

Donald: There is an intimidation factor for sure, but he makes the putts to win. Sean parred the last two and Tiger shot 67.

Morfit: If Woods were simply playing a different game from these guys, that would be one thing, but he's not, and that's more impressive. Aside from his putting, he's not really even playing all that well. While he's obviously intimidated guys like Garcia and O'Hair, who come back to him just enough, Woods simply finds a way to squeeze that one last shot out of his final score nearly 100% of the time. He was dominant circa 2000. Now he's more clutch than dominant.

Herre: Good point, Cam. The days when TW won by huge margins may be over. Must say that watching him in the clutch is much more exciting.

Bamberger: Tiger has 14 majors. Jack has 18. What can Tiger do this year in the majors? Win none, one, two, three or four?

Donald: One for Tiger. Can you say Bethpage?

Bamberger: Who do you see beating Tiger at Augusta, Mike?

Donald: Zach, Trevor . . . Augusta can produce some different winners. Bethpage really separates the field. Long and strong.

Evans: I think Tiger goes 2-4 in the majors.

Morfit: I'll say two, Bethpage and one other.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Tiger wins the Masters, then at Bethpage. The weather at the British is such a crap shoot that you can never tell, and Hazeltine might become a birdie-fest, and that might not favor Tiger.

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