The most emotionally draining week in golf history ended today at Champions Golf Club with players and fans wearing plus-fours in homage to Payne Stewart.
By afternoon's end, the players were showing a different kind of deference to another peer. Just as assuredly as this was Stewart's week and Sunday his day, 1999 has been Tiger Woods's year.
The latter fact was reaffirmed when Woods earned his seventh PGA Tour victory of the season with ease, shooting a 2-under 69 for a four-shot victory over Davis Love III. No player had earned seven or more tour wins in a year since Johnny Miller's eight-win season of 1974. Brent Geiberger finished with a 69 and took third at 10-under 274.
Woods, like the other players, dedicated Sunday to Stewart, who died last Monday in a plane crash. A framed portrait of Stewart sat to the right of the 18th green, but Woods's continued dominance wasn't lost on his peers.
Woods has won three straight tour starts. He has won six of nine tour starts dating from May. Including his May 25 victory in Germany's Deutsche Bank Open, Woods has won seven of his last 10 starts.
"Ah," said Stuart Appleby, when asked about Woods. "The royal eminence."
The $900,000 Woods earned pushed his season earnings to $5,616,585, more than twice the previous one-year record of $2,591,031 set by David Duval last year. Duval, No. 2 on the money list, trails Woods by a staggering $1,974,679.
One more official money event remains in 1999, the World Golf Championships starting Thursday in Spain. There, Woods could become the first to win four straight tour starts since Ben Hogan in 1953. The Tour Championship also was Woods's 15th top 10 finish this year, the most since Stewart in 1986.
"He is just playing very, very good golf," said Love, who never got closer than three strokes today. "I know there were times when people on the tour sat back and watched Jack [Nicklaus] do the same things."
Never mind that Woods doesn't turn 24 until Dec. 30. He already has 14 PGA Tour victories in 69 career starts. Nicklaus had eight tour victories by his 24th birthday.
Woods let the media in on a little secret today. He said he told his swing coach, Butch Harmon, back in March: "Don't be surprised if I win seven times this year."
Judging from Woods's confidence level and improvement rate, don't expect his dominance to slow anytime soon.
"What do I want to get to?" he asked. "I guess like the Army commercial, the best I can be. Whatever that is, I don't know, but I will continue to work hard and pay my dues.
"Over the course of the next 20 years, we'll see what happens when I look back on my career. Then you'll be able to understand when my peak was."
Twenty years from now, no doubt, this Tour Championship mostly will be remembered as the one in which players and fans grieved for Stewart.
At Tom Lehman's suggestion, boxes of plus-fours were shipped in. Of the field's 29 players, 24 donned plus-fours today. Appleby went one step farther. With permission from Stewart's widow, Tracey, Appleby wore Stewart's plus-fours, socks, shirt, tam-o'-shanter cap and steel-toed spikes.
Appleby had pulled them from Stewart's closet while visiting the family Thursday night.
"It sort of was like walking in his shoes for one day," said Appleby, whose wife, Renay, died in an auto accident in July 1998. "I felt like him for one day, even though my swing wasn't as fluent as his and I didn't putt as well.
"I think he would be laughing," Appleby said. "He always had teasing put on him over what he wore. He's got to be laughing, saying, 'Look what I made you guys wear.' "