With Sunday's victory at the Buick Invitational, Tiger Woods tied Arnold Palmer for the No. 4 spot on the PGA Tour's career victory list, with 62 titles. Woods' next triumph will move him into fourth place by himself. It will also put him within one victory of the No. 3 man on the all-time list -- Fort Worth golf legend Ben Hogan.
Hogan won 64 tour events during his career. The only golfers with more are Sam Snead (82) and Jack Nicklaus (73).
With the way Woods played in San Diego -- dusting runner-up Ryuji Imada by eight strokes -- it's clear that Woods should catch Hogan this season (probably at or before the 2008 Masters). Nicklaus' mark of 73 titles probably falls in 2009, although it projects to take longer than that for Woods to match Jack's 18 major championships as a professional golfer.
How soon might he catch Snead for the top spot? Probably within three years, if Woods' post-round assessment from San Diego proves valid. After the victory, Woods said he's still "getting better" because he's finally "hitting shots that I never could hit before, even in 2000."
Recall that, in 2000, Woods won the final three majors of that season on his way to completing his "Tiger Slam" at the 2001 Masters. If he's playing at a higher level than he did in 2000 -- and he did nothing in San Diego to suggest otherwise -- it's likely that Woods will challenge for a Grand Slam this season. The 2008 venues set up nicely for him, especially the first two: Woods is a four-time champion at the Masters (April 10-13) and the U.S. Open (June 12-15) will be played at Torrey Pines, the same venue where he won by eight strokes on Sunday to cap his fourth consecutive triumph at the Buick Inviational.
But that's down the line. Next up for Woods: winning two more to match Hogan on the PGA Tour's career victory list. Consider April 13 a reasonable target date for Woods to make that happen.
_ Jimmy Burch