Woods soars to 6th in row

7 down with 7 to go, he eagles 15th, storms to 64, ties with Hogan

February 08, 2000|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Clint Eastwood has seen his share of hard-to-believe movie endings in his life, but what happened yesterday at Pebble Beach defied even Hollywood's standards for reality.

To set the scene: The star was seven shots down with seven holes to play. The streak is finished at five. Done, over.

But wait: The star slam-dunks a wedge for eagle at 15. And then he just misses another eagle at 16. Meanwhile, the dashing young rookie is falling apart.

Now, there goes the star, beautifully framed against the blue waters of the Pacific, making the putt at 18 to take the lead. And he wins.

Go ahead, Tiger Woods, make Eastwood's day. Make everyone's day.

"Oh man, that was exciting," said Eastwood, one of the co-owners of the Pebble Beach course. "It was like a movie ending. Hell, it was a movie ending."

Woods put together a dramatic finish to a story that continues to stretch the boundaries of the imagination. His back-nine rush yesterday gave him a final-round 64, good enough to overtake Matt Gogel and Vijay Singh for a two-stroke win in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Woods now has won six straight PGA Tour events, a feat last accomplished by Ben Hogan in 1948. After what he did yesterday, the notion of matching Byron Nelson's streak of 11 in a row doesn't seem to be quite as impossible as it did.

"Nothing he does amazes me anymore," said Butch Harmon, Woods' coach. "As Earl [Woods' father] likes to say, `Let the legend grow.' "

The legend is expanding at warp speed. This was Arnold Palmer in full pursuit, leaving fans of a new generation exhausted and exalted.

"I don't know if I'm giving them great thrills or not," Woods said. "I'm just trying to take golf shots and give myself a chance to win."

The whole thing seemed improbable through 11 holes. Gogel was at 17-under par, blitzing the front nine in 31, while Woods was parked at 10-under, with several players in between.

But Woods wasn't conceding. He was just beginning.

"I figured if I could hang in there, keep plodding along, make a few birdies here and there, you never know," Woods said.

But Woods soon knew. He made a birdie at 12, while Gogel bogeyed 11 and 12. Suddenly, the lead was four. Then, in a flash, it became two on 15.

Woods pulled out a wedge from 97 yards on the par-4 15th. The ball bounced onto the green and, as if on cue, dropped into the hole.

"It was one of those things where you're trying to get it close and leave yourself a putt at birdie," Woods said. "It just happened to go in."

Woods almost did an encore at 16, leaving himself a tap-in birdie. He was making it look as easy as Shaquille O'Neal practicing dunks.

"It's really interesting when you're coming down the stretch in a tournament and everything is on the line at that moment. You forget what you've done," Woods said. "You forget how bad you've played or how good you've played. What really counts is the moment. It's right now."

Nobody does it better than Woods. There was little doubt that he was going to make a birdie on the par-5 18th, sending him to 15-under.

Gogel, meanwhile, was reacting like a typical tour rookie trying to win his first tournament in the big time -- the birdies turned into bogeys.

A bogey at 15 suddenly had him looking up at Woods. Gogel still had his chances, but he missed birdie putts at 17 and 18. A final missed two-footer knocked him out of sole possession of second place.

Gogel insisted he didn't know what Woods was doing in front of him because the scoreboards on the course weren't keeping pace. He thought he was battling Singh and Notah Begay until the 16th hole.

But when he saw it was Woods, the rookie wasn't surprised.

"I don't know about destiny," Gogel said of the winner. "He's just damned good. He had all the eyes on him, and he did it. You know, 4- or 5-under par is a heck of a score today. Eight-under is tremendous."

By the way, Woods had said after Sunday's third round that he had a number in mind that he needed to shoot yesterday to win the tournament.

Was it 64, by chance?

"Uh, huh," Woods said, a bit sheepishly. "It really was."

Woods could have said 59 and pulled it off the way he's playing. Perhaps, though, he set the number higher to keep things interesting.

After participating in the trophy presentation yesterday, Eastwood went rushing to his black Mercedes. With his duties as one of the hosts, he wasn't able to see Woods' heroics.

"I've got to get home so I can watch the tape," Eastwood said.

It didn't matter that he already knew the ending.

UNSTOPPABLE WOODS

Fantastic finish

Tiger Woods needed a dramatic rally yesterday to record his sixth straight PGA tournament victory. He was seven shots behind Matt Gogel and trailed five golfers overall when he teed off on the 12th hole. Here's how Woods and Gogel finished at Pebble Beach:

.......................12...........13.. .........14..........15..........16........17........18

Par....................3.............4.. ...........5............4............4..........3..........5

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