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Four! Woods Makes History at the Masters

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tiger Woods locked arms with Bobby Jones, golf’s greatest legend, when he won his second Masters tournament Sunday at Augusta National and became the first player to hold all four major professional championship titles at the same time.

After making a birdie putt on the 18th hole to clinch the two-shot victory over David Duval, Woods pulled his cap over his face to conceal tears. It was a rare display of emotion by Woods, 25.

Jones, who helped design the Augusta National layout that he carved out of the red Georgia clay, won all four of the biggest tournaments in the world as an amateur in 1930--the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur--an achievement known as the Grand Slam.

By contrast, Woods’ version of the Grand Slam spans parts of last year and this one. He won the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship in 2000 to accompany his second victory at the Masters. He also won at Augusta in 1997.

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Players such as Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead say a Grand Slam must be achieved in a calendar year, but the weight of Woods’ feat is extraordinary.

It is unparalleled in modern golf and has generally been considered unattainable.

“Awesome, amazing,” Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, said of Woods.

“He’s one of a kind. He’s so good, you don’t underestimate him because he is so good. I guess if you’re a historian it isn’t [a Grand Slam], but I think it is because it will never get done again.”

Woods has won five of the last six majors and six overall in a career that seems to reach greater heights each time he tees up his ball.

Woods said he did not feel it was his task to assess the merits of the Grand Slam.

“It will probably go down as one of the top moments in our sport,” he said.

He began the day with a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson, who had trouble with his putting and finished third, three shots behind Woods.

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Woods was tied with Duval until the 16th hole, when Duval three-putted and made a bogey.

With a one-shot lead, Woods missed a two-foot putt for a birdie at the 15th, but finished with a flourish, rolling in a difficult, 15-foot birdie putt at the 18th to close out the tournament with a 68 and a 72-hole score of 16-under-par 272.

After leaving the green he rushed to hug his father, Earl--who guided his golf training--and mother, Kultida.

It was the 27th PGA Tour victory for Woods, who is now one-third of the way toward equaling Snead’s record of 81 tournament titles. Woods has now won 20 events in slightly more than 27 months--and the last three times he has played.

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Worldwide, Woods has won 35 tournaments and more than $28 million in less than five years.

Masters Tournament Chairman William “Hootie” Johnson congratulated Woods for winning his second green jacket, the symbolic prize awarded to each Masters champion.

“Tiger, what can I say?” Johnson said. “We are happy to have you as our champion, and you are the greatest.”

Woods is accumulating golf’s biggest prizes at dizzying speed. His sixth major title achievement compares favorably with the pace set by Jack Nicklaus. When Nicklaus won the 1966 British Open for his sixth major, he was 26 years, five months, 19 days old. Woods was 25 years, three months, nine days.

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In his short professional career, Woods has supplanted Michael Jordan as the world’s most famous professional athlete. His influence has injected golf, once dismissed as a country club sport, into the sports mainstream and made it a heavyweight in the television ratings.

When Woods took over the lead of the Masters on Saturday, the third-round coverage on CBS earned a 7.9 overnight rating and a 19 share--the second highest third-round rating ever. The top rating of an 8.6 and 20 share was in 1997, when Woods won the Masters the first time.

At 21 years, three months and 14 days, he was the youngest Masters champion and the first of African American or Asian heritage. Earl Woods is African American and Kultida Woods is Thai.

Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was born Dec. 30, 1975, in Cypress and showed an interest in golf when he was 6 months old in his crib, watching Earl hit golf balls into a net and imitating his swing.

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The precocious Tiger appeared on the “Mike Douglas Show” at 2, hitting putts with Bob Hope. At 3, Woods shot 48 over nine holes. He played his first pro event at 16, the Nissan Los Angeles Open, and although he missed the cut, Woods was well on his way toward establishing himself as the game’s top amateur.

Woods was 20 when he turned pro in September 1996, after the most heralded amateur career since Nicklaus. He is a three-time winner of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, in 1991, 1992 and 1993. No one else has won more than once.

At 18, he became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur when he triumphed in 1994. Woods won again in 1995 and in 1996 at Pumpkin Ridge in Beaverton, Ore., where his victory made him the only player to win three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles.

Woods turned pro the next day, leaving an amateur legacy rivaling that of Jones. No one has equaled Woods’ record of 18 consecutive match play victories or his winning percentage of .909. His six consecutive years of winning a USGA championship are second to Jones’ eight.

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After leaving Stanford University to join the PGA Tour, he signed an endorsement deal with Nike estimated at more than $40 million--his endorsement income is more than three times that now--and won the fifth tournament he entered.

Woods has been the leading money winner on the PGA Tour three times in his four full years as a professional, and his career earnings of $23,767,307 are already the most of all time.

Last year, Woods set 27 PGA Tour records; established a single-season earnings record of $9,188,321; won nine tournaments, three of them major championships; and established the lowest scoring average in history, 67.79.

He won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots. He won the British Open at St. Andrews with a record score of 18 under par and by a record eight shots. He won the PGA Championship at Valhalla, the first player to win the title back-to-back in 63 years.

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What’s more, Woods’ victory at the Old Course in the British Open completed a career Grand Slam, a victory in each of the four major championships--the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. The only others to accomplish that feat are Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Nicklaus and Gary Player.

At 24, Woods was the youngest to win all four.


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