Campbell and Woods - streaks apart

As Tiger's amazing 143-tournament run comes to a halt, New Zealander tries to end his 24-month drought
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The Independent Online

As the world of golf was still coming to terms with the news that Tiger Woods had missed his first cut in 143 tournaments and seven years, here in the rattling woods of the West Midlands, Michael Campbell was trying to put to bed a streak that stretches back 41 events and two years since his last European Tour victory.

As the world of golf was still coming to terms with the news that Tiger Woods had missed his first cut in 143 tournaments and seven years, here in the rattling woods of the West Midlands, Michael Campbell was trying to put to bed a streak that stretches back 41 events and two years since his last European Tour victory.

It was a pitch into the cup from the back of the 18th green that put the flourish on a week's-best round of 67 and sent him hurtling clear as all around him set about renaming this course The Forest of Arduousness. "I said to my caddie on the last that it's time for a chip-in," he said about his birdie attempt at this mischievous par-three. "Well, I hit the spot all right - and boom!"

"Boom!" was about right because from seemingly being the tightest of affairs, the Dunlop Masters is now the New Zealander's to lose with a three-shot cushion, sewn by four birdies in the last four holes, over David Howell, Brian Davis and Steve Webster. "It's bloody tough out there," said Campbell, stating the bloody obvious, what with only five players standing under par. "I'm a wind player. I just love manufacturing shots. This is my game."

And, in truth, it should be Campbell's tournament, which would be his seventh Tour title and the first since the Nissan Irish Open in 2003 for a golfer who has continued to look a world top-20 player in everything but results. As the gusts continue to do their inevitable damnedest today, however, it might be anything but a breeze as the three Englishmen behind him will all fancy their chances.

Saying that, Davis will have been fancying nothing stronger last night than an aspirin after two bogeys on the two birdieable par-fives saw him slip to a 73 in a round that went from the ridiculous to the sublime and back to the ridiculous again. Meanwhile, Howell was his composed self, losing one here, grabbing another there, although seeing as the Swindon swinger has not won since 1999 perhaps the onus is best heaped on to Webster, especially if you apply the London-bus philosophy.

Some 10 years and 247 tries spanned back from his professional debut to last week's success at the Italian Open where the 30-year-old at last located the winner's enclosure. And once this local lad had his nose in the bag, he now looks like wanting more and more after a 70 yesterday put him to within sniffing distance.

Indeed, Webster can only smell victory nowadays after recently enlisting the services of a "mind magician" who is earning something of a reputation on Tour with his methods that are based, loosely, around hypnotism. Jamil Qureshi similarly inspired Nick Dougherty to triumph in Singapore in January and even claims he can bend spoons. Maybe that's how Webster found his way around a tree that was no more than a foot in front of him on the 16th yesterday. Sheer magic.

Harry Houdini himself might not have dared advise Woods on unbelievable escapes, so many times has the world No 1 found ways to wriggle out of chains that had him surely bound to missing cuts. And Jesper Parnevik - a much-valued friend of Tiger's, having introduced him to the Swede's then nanny Miss Elin Nordegren who was later to become Mrs Woods - revealed how unlikely his fellow professionals thought it would be this time as the nine-times major winner lined up a 15-footer on the last at the Byron Nelson Championship. (Ironically, it was Nelson's record of 113 that Woods broke last year.)

For once, the putt wasn't for a trophy, for yet more millions, for yet more world ranking points, for yet more hero worship, but to keep alive the longest cut-streak in golfing history. "Every guy in the locker room was watching," Parnevik said. "We're not allowed to bet, but guys were offering $1,000 he would make it. There weren't any takers." He missed - only just, mind you - and for the first time since the 1998 Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Woods had a weekend off that he hadn't scheduled. "I just had a tough day," Woods said, sounding almost relieved it was all over. "What is it? Seven years? That's not too bad. I just tried to bandage my way to the finish."

Alas, the wounds weeped through, although it was a day for celebration, not for mourning. "That streak's probably more impressive than all the tournaments he's won," Parnevik said. "For the rest of us, we have one bad day and we go home. But even on a bad day, he was able to scramble around and make cuts. He probably has the toughest heart of anyone who ever played this game. That record will never be broken again." Woods was not about to disagree, putting his breathtaking run down to "intestinal fortitude". "I should have missed many a cut by now, but you just somehow figure out a way," he said. "That's part of my attitude and belief - you should always have the switch on. You can't turn it on and off."

The mantle of longest-active streak for a male professional is now passed on to Ernie Els, on a distant-looking 20, although over in Atlanta the female equivalent of Woods, Annika Sorenstam, was busy extending her own streak to 48 after taking a six-shot lead after the second round of the Chick-fil-A Charity Classic.

"I've only got about a hundred to go to catch him," Sorenstam said. Don't rule it out.

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