Who Can Take On Tiger?

Stephen Ames, Third Round, U.S. Open
Fred Vuich/SI
Don't forget about Stephen Ames on Sunday.

OAKMONT, Pa. -- Times have changed. Tiger Woods sometimes looks like a mere mortal -- Thursday and Friday of this week, for instance. Saturday, however, he was the Tiger of old. He hit 17 of 18 greens on the toughest Open course in the rotation and shot 69, and it could've been much lower.

Woods is two shots behind the young Australian Aaron Baddeley. In at least a half dozen previous majors, I've found myself writing, "It's over, Tiger wins again." Sometimes I wrote it after the opening 18. I was often correct.

It's different now. Woods isn't automatic. I still wouldn't bet 10 cents against him Sunday. You say Tiger has never won a major coming from behind in 28 tries? Do you seriously think Woods can't make up two shots on Baddeley? Or anyone else?

Tiger's swing on Sunday was a work of art that we were lucky to behold. Nick Dougherty, the long-forgotten first-round leader, played with Woods.

"If he'd putted as well as I did, he would have shot six under," Dougherty said. "Tee to green, he was phenomenal. He was just brilliant. He played far better than 69 -- 66, maximum. If he plays like that and makes some putts, no one will catch him."

So here's the call: Tiger wins his 13th major. But it's not over, so just for fun, who is actually capable of defeating Mr. Woods and delaying his inevitable march on Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 professional majors? It's a short list, and I don't think it will happen, but here are some names anyway:

1. He's got the goods: That would be Badds, as in Baddeley. It's not so important that he has the lead. Two shots is nothing at Oakmont; every hole is a potential double bogey. But Badds showed me something on the back nine Saturday. He was two over on the front nine before pouring in four birdies on the back, including the capper at the 18th, a nice 20-foot putt.

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