Ain't that grand!

Slam debate aside, Woods makes golf history

Birdie putt on 18 brings tears, 2-shot Masters win - and 4th straight major

First to hold all simultaneously

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

AUGUSTA, Ga. - When the 65th Masters was over last night for Tiger Woods, when his two-shot victory had been secured by a 20-foot birdie putt moments before, when the four-hour struggle of matching wits and talent and toughness with David Duval and Phil Mickelson finally ended, the world's greatest player cried.

Not as he had four years ago, when he won his first green jacket in a 12-shot runaway and collapsed into the waiting arms of his father and mentor, Earl. This time, Woods simply covered his face with his cap and then wiped away the tears as Mickelson was about to putt.

This time, Woods understood what he accomplished far better and appreciated the significance far more.

"When I made that putt, I walked over to the side and I kept thinking, `I don't have any more shots to play. I'm done. I won the Masters,' " he said, his historic achievement of winning four straight major championships slowly sinking in. "It was just a weird feeling, when you are focused so hard on each and every shot."

Woods was not only talking about the strokes yesterday for a 4-under-par 68, but all the strokes that added up to a four-round total of 16-under 272 - two short of his 1997 tournament record.

Only when Duval missed a 5-footer for birdie on the 18th hole and he had made his final putt could Woods relax.

In beating Duval by two shots and Mickelson by three to win his sixth major championship overall and deny each their first major, the 25-year-old Woods accomplished something that no other player in history had.

Not Jack Nicklaus, whose record of 18 major professional championships Woods is still chasing. Not Ben Hogan, the only other player to have won three majors in the same year. And not Bobby Jones, who founded this tournament four years after winning golf's former Grand Slam of the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur.

Woods will let others determine if his amazing four-peat should be called a Grand Slam. Asked if he regards it that way, Woods smiled and said, "I've won four."

Yesterday's victory was worth a little over $1 million and raised the earnings of golf's all-time money-winner to more than $23 million in a career that began less than six years ago. It was the 27th victory for Woods, and his third straight since a seven-month drought.

Considering the competition from Duval and Mickelson, it might have been the most satisfying.

"When I won in '97, I had not been a pro for a full year yet," said Woods. "I guess I was a little young, a little naive and I didn't understand what I had accomplished for at least a year or two after that event. This time, I understand. I've been around the block. I've witnessed things."

But in winning this Masters, Woods witnessed something he had not in any of his previous five major championships. As close as last year's PGA Championship at Valhalla was, Woods was not being challenged by a journeyman - Bob May - on a roll, but by two of the world's top players on a mission.

It was reminiscent of the historic back-nine shootout won here by Nicklaus over Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf in 1975. That one came down to the final hole, when both Miller and Weiskopf missed birdie putts that would have forced a playoff.

"This one was tough knowing the fact that you could not make a mistake," said Woods.

Starting the day a stroke in front of Mickelson and two ahead of Mark Calcavecchia and two-round leader Chris DiMarco, Woods bogeyed the par-4 opening hole after his drive sailed under some tree limbs. It was the first of four times that Woods lost sole possession of the lead.

But in each case, Woods took it back by making a birdie or watching one of his rivals make bogey.

"It was awfully fun to go out there and compete," said Woods, who will go for a fifth straight major at the U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., in June. "I know that you have to hit the best shots and make some putts, and just hang in there. To see David up there and play as solid as he did on the front side, and know that's probably going to continue on the back nine. ... Phil right there in my group making birdies. I made some big putts to keep myself in the ballgame."

The first came when Woods' approach flew into a bunker behind the fifth green, and he made a 5-footer for par to remain at 12-under with Mickelson, who had birdied the hole. Then came a 6-footer for birdie on the par-4 seventh after Mickelson birdied from 20 feet and Duval had made his fourth straight birdie on the par-5 eighth to tie Woods at 13-under.

But Mickelson, as is his nature in major championships, began to miss putts. He missed a 7-footer for par on the 11th hole after Woods nearly holed for eagle from the fairway. After two birdies brought him within a shot of both Woods and Duval, Mickelson three-putted from 40 feet on the par-3 16th.

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