Begay Talks About Tiger's Dominance

Tuesday, August 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Notah Begay III, who has two victories in each of his two seasons on the PGA Tour, thinks Tiger Woods' domination has left many fellow golf professionals disheartened and feeling beaten from the start.

``I think for a lot of them it is'' disheartening, Begay said Monday at Kingsmill Golf Club, where he will defend the Michelob Championship in October. ``But there's a small percentage that look at it as a challenge and inspiration.

``He's the pace-setter.''

Woods, a teammate of Begay's at Stanford, became only the second player to win three majors in a year Sunday with a stirring comeback victory in the PGA Championship. It was a rally that Begay said highlights what makes Woods frighteningly good.

``What a lot of people don't understand about Tiger is that when he gets in those situations, as opposed to a lot of other players that start feeling the pressure and ... having doubts, Tiger really enjoys it.

``Everybody wondered why he can make those putts,'' Begay said of Woods' 6-footer on the final hole of regulation to force a playoff with Bob May.

``He's just testing himself. He's continually testing himself and when he fails, he goes back and evaluates why he failed and rebuilds it and comes back stronger the next time. That's why it's so scary how good he is now because he's going to continually try and improve and make himself a better player, which is going to make the rest of us have to work even harder to bridge the gap.''

For many, he said, the psychological game has already been won — by Woods.

``I know for a fact that there's a percentage of guys that know they can't beat him. It's a simple as that,'' Begay said, adding that he's beaten Woods two or three times head-to-head over 10 years while coming up short five or six times.

Curtis Strange, a two-time U.S. Open champion, compared Woods' dominance to that of superstars Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Jack Nicklaus in their primes.

``He's winning all the tournaments,'' Strange said flatly. ``I think we have to be careful and not expect him to win every tournament he steps into, but when he gets fired up, with his talent, with his intestinal fortitude, everything, when that preparation meets the opportunity, he's there all the time.''

Woods has played just 15 events on tour this year, winning seven times and finishing second in three. He's earned nearly $6.7 million, more than twice what Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner this year, has won. Begay is 12th at $1.65 million.

Woods also is making a liar of Lee Trevino, Strange said, partly joking.

``Trevino said years ago `God didn't give one golfer everything.' Well, that was before Tiger Woods came about,'' Strange said. ``He's not only very good at everything, he's probably one of the top three in every category right now.

``He's got the total, total package.''

It's a package Begay, who probably knows Woods as well as almost any other player on tour, would relish a chance to duel with some Sunday afternoon.

``I think that would be the most fun, just to be there with him. We've played so much together in all these years. It'd just be like two old friends going at each other, two brothers almost. And once the gun goes off, it doesn't really matter who the guy is. You just want to beat his brains in,'' he said.

May's gutsy performance should give every golfer hope that they would rise to the challenge if their time comes against Woods, Begay said. But Strange doesn't expect anyone to come close to the 24-year-old Woods on a consistent basis.

``Guys like Notah, as wonderful as he is, have no chance ever to be number one in the world as long as Tiger's around,'' Strange said. ``Mickelson and Ernie Els and guys you look at as the top notch players. David Duval isn't going to be number one. They're going to be wonderful players, maybe hall of fame players one day, but they're not going to be number one as long as Tiger's around.''