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Reaper by the Dozen

Times Staff Writer

The late-afternoon sun filtered through the trees Sunday at Medinah Country Club as Tiger Woods removed his cap to salute the fans who cheered each step of his leisurely stroll up the 18th fairway and straight into legend once again.

Woods left Medinah with his 12th major championship, a $1.224-million winner’s check and his streak intact of nine consecutive rounds in the 60s and 14 of his last 15. The numbers are more than impressive, they are dominating.

He made only three bogeys in 72 holes, played the par-five holes in a combined eight under, made 21 birdies and, for good measure, became only the fifth player to win the PGA Championship at least three times.

The list is full of greatness: Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen with five, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead with three.

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The first player to win the PGA Championship twice on the same course (he also won here in 1999), Woods equaled his tournament scoring record in relation to par, shared with Bob May, at 18 under. With a closing round of four-under 68, he easily outdistanced runner-up Shaun Micheel, who was five shots behind Woods in second place.

“It was a great day out there,” Woods said. “I had one of those magical days on the greens out there. I felt like I could make anything.”

He seemed to come close ... beginning with a 12-foot birdie on the first hole, a two-putt birdie on the fifth and then two calling cards that notified the rest of the players that this one was nearly over -- a seven-iron at the sixth and a 40-foot birdie putt, followed by another seven-iron at the eighth and another 40-foot birdie.

Woods said he believed he couldn’t miss.

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“It was a really neat feeling to have,” he said.

Woods owns the scoring records in all four major championships in relation to par -- 19 under at the British Open, 18 under at the Masters, 12 under at the U.S. Open and 18 under at the PGA Championship.

He is the only player to win the British Open and the PGA consecutively twice (this year and in 2000).

What’s more, with his 12th major championship and second this year, Woods became the first player to win at least two majors in consecutive years, and moved closer to Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.

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“It’s still a long way ahead,” he said. “It’s not something I can get next year. Eighteen is a pretty big number.”

Woods has enjoyed a remarkable stretch, even by his lofty standards.

Since he went winless in 10 straight majors, from the 2002 British Open through the 2004 PGA Championship, Woods has won four of the last eight majors, beginning at the 2005 Masters.

In the other four majors, Woods was second, third and fourth and missed the cut at Winged Foot in June at the U.S. Open -- his first tournament after the death of his father, Earl, on May 3. Woods followed that with his emotional British Open triumph last month, when he sobbed on caddie Steve Williams’ shoulder after winning at Royal Liverpool.

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Woods won seven of the 11 majors played beginning at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah through the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. If he were able to repeat such a feat, he would catch Nicklaus at the 2009 U.S. Open -- at Bethpage Black -- when he would be 33. Nicklaus won his 18 majors over 25 years; Woods has won 12 in 11 years on the PGA Tour.

“So far to this point, it’s been pretty incredible,” Jim Furyk said. “I think a lot of people predicted he would give Nicklaus’ record a run but probably would not have predicted he would get to 12 this soon.”

By the time Woods arrived at the 12th tee, no one was closer than five shots. He had built his lead in his now-familiar fashion of playing it safe off the tee, making no lapses in judgment and taking advantage of his chances.

Luke Donald, who began the fourth round tied with Woods at 14 under, started slipping when he bogeyed the fourth hole after missing the green and fell two shots behind Woods, who had rolled in his birdie putt at the first. Mike Weir came close when he birdied the 537-yard fifth and stayed within two shots for a while.

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But Woods had a four-shot lead over Weir after eight holes, a five-shot lead after 11, and the proceedings from that point seemed more about accounting and history than anything else.

Once again, there was Woods and then there was everyone else.

Chris DiMarco, who followed up his third-round 67 with a 72 and tied for 12th, said Woods is a special case.

“I’ve never seen anybody, take away Jack Nicklaus, who looks more comfortable leading on the back nine of a major than playing the first hole of a tournament, and that’s pretty scary,” he said.

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“It’s unbelievable that he can feel that comfort zone in that situation and just relishes the fact that everybody for the most part wants to see him trip. People are like, ‘Please make bogeys,’ other people make birdies, and he just puts the hammer down.

“At the end, he wins by four or five and your hat’s off to him. He’s the best.”

Micheel, who won the 2003 PGA Championship, said he didn’t drive the ball as well as he would have liked, but said it probably didn’t matter.

“I’m not sure even if I would have hit every fairway I would have been able to catch Tiger,” he said. “He’s too good.”

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Phil Mickelson couldn’t get his game going in the right direction and a two-over 74 left him tied for 16th.

Asked about Woods’ 12 major titles at the age of 30, Mickelson was brief.

“It’s pretty good,” he said.

It’s probably a lot better than that. Woods broke his tie with Hagen at 11 major titles, leaving only Nicklaus to catch. His 51st PGA Tour title tied Billy Casper, leaving only five players ahead of him: Byron Nelson with 52, Arnold Palmer with 62, Ben Hogan with 64, Nicklaus with 73 and Snead with 82.

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He has won each of the four majors by at least five shots. He won the British Open last month playing conservatively off the tee with a two-iron, but switched to a five-wood this week, which he hits farther, and the result was the same.

Woods is 37-3 in PGA Tour events when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead and he’s 12-0 in majors.

Sergio Garcia, who tied for third with Donald and Adam Scott, was asked whether somebody was going to beat Woods on a Sunday someday.

“It doesn’t look like it,” Garcia said. “What can I say?

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“It will happen eventually. I mean, he’s not going to be 68 years old and in the final round of a major and tied for the lead and he wins. It’s going to happen eventually. We’ll see then.”

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Begin text of infobox

Under statement

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Tiger Woods matched his record for lowest score in relation to par at the PGA Championship.

*--* 18 under (270) Tiger Woods, 2006 18 under (270) Tiger Woods and Bob May, 2000* 17 under (267) Colin Montgomerie and Steve Elkington, 1995* 15 under (265) David Toms, 2001 15 under (269) Jeff Maggert, 1990 Ernie Els, 1995 15 under (273) Lee Trevino, 1984 14 under (266) Phil Mickelson, 2001 13 under (271) Brad Faxon, 1995 13 under (275) Shaun Micheel, 2006 13 under (275) Thomas Bjorn, 2000 * Woods def. May in a playoff; Elkington def. Montgomerie in a playoff.

*--*

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Source: Associated Press

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Woods’ Sunday best

With Sunday’s victory at Medinah, Tiger Woods improved to 12-0 in majors when leading or tied for the lead after 54 holes. How his playing partners performed in the final round (* lost in playoff):

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*--* Event Course Player Deficit Finish (deficit) 1997 Masters Augusta National Costantino Rocca 9 shots 6th (15) 1999 PGA Medinah Mike Weir Tied T-7th (8) 2000 U.S. Open Pebble Beach Ernie Els 10 T-2nd (15) 2000 British St. Andrews David Duval 6 T-11th (12) Open 2000 PGA Valhalla Bob May 1 2nd* 2001 Masters Augusta National Phil Mickelson 1 3rd (3) 2002 Masters Augusta National Retief Goosen Tied 2nd (3) 2002 U.S. Open Bethpage Black Sergio Garcia 4 4th (6) 2005 Masters Augusta National Chris DiMarco 3 2nd* 2005 British St. Andrews Jose Maria 2 T-3rd (6) Open Olazabal 2006 British Royal Liverpool Sergio Garcia 1 T-5th (7) Open 2006 PGA Medinah Luke Donald Tied T-3rd (6)

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Source: Times wire services

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