Woods takes major step up

He defeats Garcia by one stroke for PGA Championship

Long-awaited 2nd major win

19-year-old Spaniard has crowd on side

August 16, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MEDINAH, ILL. — MEDINAH, Ill.-- Tiger Woods got more than he bargained for yesterday in the final round of the 81st PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club.

He got the long-awaited second major victory of his already storied career, following his ground-breaking, record-setting 12-shot win at the Masters two years ago. He also got a glimpse of his newest, and perhaps more popular rival, 19-year-old Sergio Garcia of Spain.

After coming into the round tied for the lead with Canadian left-hander Mike Weir at 11-under par, then moving as many as five shots ahead with seven holes to play, Woods barely hung on. His lead twice shriveled to one, and Woods needed to make a clutch 6-foot putt for par on the next-to-last hole to stay ahead of Garcia.

Woods closed his eyes and clenched his fist then, and did it again after tapping in from a foot away on the par-4 18th hole to preserve his one-shot victory. The huge expectations that had followed him since Augusta and the ricocheting emotions in a round of even-par 72 seemed to drain Woods.

His caddie, Steve Williams, even picked up his ball.

"Getting No. 2," Woods said later, "is definitely a relief."

The victory was the 11th for the 23-year-old Woods -- the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros in 1980 to win two majors -- in his PGA Tour career, his fourth this season. It was worth $630,000, pushing Woods to $3,254,105 this year and past David Duval to No. 1 on the money list. The win also was worth enough computer points to help Woods reclaim the No. 1 spot in the world rankings away from Duval.

Clearly, it was one of the most difficult.

Seemingly on the verge of an Augusta-like blowout, Woods had made four birdies on the first 11 holes to move to 15-under par, five shots ahead of Garcia and Nick Price. But moments after the cheers went up for Garcia's tee shot on the par-3 13th, Woods missed a 3-footer for par on the 12th.

As Woods stood on the elevated 13th tee, a fan yelled at him, "You're playing for second place, Tiger." He didn't flinch, and remained stone-faced as Garcia made an 18-footer for birdie, pumped his fist and, with his arm in the air, looked up at Woods. The crowd roared even louder, clearly pulling for Garcia.

Asked later about his gesture, Garcia said: "I wanted him to know I was still there and I wanted to show him he had to finish well to win."

Said Woods: "I was watching him. You have to expect your opponent to play the best, and I expected him to make that putt. If you think he's going to miss, then obviously if he makes it, then it's a surprise and you won't have the correct mind-set over the [next] shot."

As for being heckled, Woods said, "They were saying some pretty tough things. But I know if I reacted to them, they would have gotten on me even more."

Things didn't improve for Woods when he chunked his chip over the green and back into the rough, with his ball lodged in some thick grass and against the grain. He barely got the ball back on the green, and missed an 8-footer coming back for bogey. The lead was down to one.

"Even though I lost four shots in two holes, I still had the lead," said Woods. "Granted, he has more momentum than I do, but he's still chasing me."

The chase seemed to stall when Garcia bogeyed the par-4 15th hole, hitting his drive into the trees and putting his approach over the green before narrowly missing a 25-footer for par. But Garcia showed the imagination of Ballesteros, his mentor, after blocking another drive under a tree on the par-4 16th.

This time, the ball found its way between two roots, within a foot of the tree's base.

"I had a shot, but the main problem was the tree was making kind of a `B', so I had to hit it with a big slice," said Garcia. "I just closed my eyes, hit the ball and went backwards, just in case the ball hits the tree and comes back to me."

The shot, with a 6-iron from nearly 190 yards, sailed up the hill and found its way to green, 50 feet from the cup. Garcia sprinted up the hill, and then jumped to see where the ball landed. The crowd gave Garcia a standing ovation and, as is his habit, he doffed his hat. He left his putt two feet shot and they cheered again.

"I don't know why, it looks like they like me and I also like them," he said later. "I always try to make the crowds enjoy and I have a lot of respect for them. That's why I always take my hat off. Not on all the greens, but most of them. Maybe you have to ask them, but it looks like they love me."

The fans weren't the only people Garcia was thinking about.

His mind was on catching Woods.

Garcia's chances looked to improve even more when Woods hit his tee shot over the flag on the par-3 17th and into thick rough behind the green. After Weir put a similar chip to within a couple of feet, Woods hit his a little fat and the ball stopped 6 feet above the hole. Williams, who has caddied for Woods since March, told him, "Inside left."

The ball went in.

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