SWEEP! Woods wins 4th straight major

Unthinkable, perhaps, but Tiger Woods did it

Win at the Masters, plus 3 other titles, tops legends of golf

April 09, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- As Tiger Woods walked down the ninth fairway at Augusta National Golf Club yesterday afternoon, tied for the lead with David Duval in the final round of the 65th Masters, a fan called out to the world's best player.

"Halfway to history," the man shouted.

Considering that he had already won three of golf's four major championships last year, Woods was a little further along in his quest to become the first player in history to hold the title in each of the Grand Slam events at the same time. A couple of hours later, Woods was all the way there.

In the most scintillating Sunday shootout seen here in more than a quarter-century, Woods birdied the final hole to beat Duval by two strokes and Phil Mickelson, the world's No. 2 player, by three.

It meant that Woods, 25, is the reigning champion of the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

"I don't think as a kid you think about winning four straight majors," said Woods. "You definitely think about competing against the best players in the world, winning golf tournaments and winning majors. I never had a thought of winning four in a row in my head -- until now."

It was the sixth major championship for Woods and second Masters, following his record-setting, history-making win here in 1997 when he became the youngest player to win the Masters. It was his third victory in as many tournaments, after talk that Woods was in a slump.

The victory for Woods was his 27th since turning pro after winning his third straight U.S. Amateur (also a record) in 1996. The win -- his 21st out of 23 chances on the PGA Tour in which Woods held at least a share of the lead going into the final day -- was worth $1,008,000 and pushed his career record earnings to $23,767,307.

Starting one shot ahead of Mickelson, Woods shot a final round of 4-under-par 68 to give him a four-round total of 16-under-par 272. It was just two strokes off his own tournament record, set four years ago when he won by a record nine strokes.

It was typical of what Woods has done throughout his career as an amateur and a pro.

The more pressure was applied, the better Woods played.

After jockeying for position over several holes with Duval, Woods finally got some breathing room late on the back nine. Bogeys by Duval and Mickelson on the par-3 16th, and a 6-footer that Duval missed for birdie on the par-4 18th hole nearly closed the door.

Woods emphatically slammed it shut when he rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on the final hole. As the ball was inches from the cup, Woods pumped his fist in triumph and then moved to pluck the ball from the hole. A moment later, Woods had to cover his face with his hat to hide his emotions.

"I started losing it a little bit," he said later.

Woods accomplished his remarkable feat -- only one other player, the legendary Ben Hogan, had won three straight, in 1953 -- before a crowd of around 25,000 that included his parents, Earl and Tida Woods.

Woods received a congratulatory call from President Bush about an hour after the victory.

At the ceremony where defending champion Vijay Singh presented Woods with his second green jacket, thousands of fans who had remained roared their approval. Some had arrived from other parts of the world to witness history, others from a few miles away as they do every year.

Graham Ewart came from Edinburgh, Scotland, where he recently retired from the Scottish Golf Union. It was Ewart's retirement present to come to a place he had only read about and seen on television.

"Unbelievable," said Ewart. "It's good for golf. He's now the top sportsman in the world. That's good for the game."

Doody Snyder, a high school history teacher a couple of miles across the Savannah River in North Augusta, S.C., has been attending since she was in kindergarten, 39 years ago. She never missed a Masters, even when she was nine months' pregnant with her first child and delivered the Tuesday after the tournament.

"I like the close ones, and I didn't care who won today," she said. "But it's awesome, really. I don't think it will ever be done again."

Hootie Johnson, the chairman of Augusta National, said at the green jacket ceremony: "We have witnessed the greatest achievement in golf history, and we are very happy that Tiger accomplished it at the Masters tournament. ... Tiger, what more can I say? You are the greatest."

Woods acknowledged the crowd by tipping an imaginary hat and then slipped into the green jacket.

"It still fits," he said.

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