Woods repeats routine

He captures 2nd in row, 3rd overall at Augusta with 3-stroke victory

Goosen: `He was cruising in'

Woods joins Nicklaus, Faldo as only 3 to win back-to-back Masters

April 15, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The smell was unmistakable. As Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen of South Africa stepped onto the first tee yesterday at Augusta National Golf Club for the final round of the 66th Masters, there was a hearty stench from the muddy path nearby on which most of the huge gallery was standing.

They were there to witness history in the mucking.

Woods had a different scent altogether, the kind that the world's best golfer has experienced many times. While sharing the lead with Goosen after three rounds, Woods and nearly everyone else here understood what was going to transpire. Simply put, he was going for blood.

It didn't take long. A bogey on the first hole by Goosen, the reigning U.S. Open champion, gave Woods his first lead of the week. Woods followed with two straight birdies, and the tournament's defending champion simply allowed everyone else in contention to crumble down the stretch.

The result was an almost routine three-stroke victory for Woods, whose 1-under-par 71 gave him a four-round total of 12-under 276. On a leader board that constantly changed except for the name at the top, Goosen wound up in second and Phil Mickelson in third, four shots behind.

The victory was the 31st in six years on the PGA Tour for Woods, his third win at Augusta and his seventh major professional championship. Woods became only the third player in Masters history to win back-to-back, joining fellow legend Jack Nicklaus (1965-66) and Hall of Famer Nick Faldo (1989-90).

"I always felt that I had the game that was good enough to win here at this tournament," said Woods, who is a month older than Nicklaus was when he won the third of his record six Masters in 1966. "I keep saying it, you've got to have some good breaks. I played well this week, made some good putts when I really needed them."

It marked the seventh time in a major without a defeat that Woods won after holding or sharing the third-round lead, and the 23rd time in 25 such situations on the PGA Tour that Woods has won. Considering the quality of those in contention, it seemed surprising how quickly things ended for everyone else.

As Goosen was wilting in the heat of a steamy spring afternoon -- not to mention having to play in the rock-star atmosphere that surrounds Woods -- others fell apart as well. Mickelson birdied the first two holes to close to within two shots, but bogeyed the next two and never challenged again.

The only other players with a realistic chance to catch Woods on the back nine were 2000 champion Vijay Singh and two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa. But Els triple-bogeyed the par-5 13th hole and Singh quadruple-bogeyed the par-5 15th to finish tied for fifth and seventh, respectively.

"I know I got it to 10 under [through 10 holes] when I wanted to, but I just didn't finish the job," said Els.

As usual, Woods did. He followed his bogey on the par-4 fifth hole that allowed Singh to get within two strokes with a chip-in birdie from 30 feet on the par-3 sixth. He missed a few short putts that could have turned it into another rout, but otherwise played the kind of game that doesn't give anybody else a chance.

"I think the turning point for Tiger was on the sixth hole when he chipped in," said Goosen, who shot 2-over par 74. "From there on, I think no one was really putting any pressure on him. He was really cruising in. He wasn't taking any chances out there. He was just hitting to the safe side of every hole."

Said Mickelson, who shot 71: "I think the thing about Tiger as a leader is he's the only leader that you don't have the hope that he's going to falter. When other guys are up there, you know if you just stay around, there's a good chance they might come back, but Tiger doesn't seem to do that."

Woods said that his victory was more difficult than it appeared.

"Vijay was at 10 under for a while and Retief was hanging around there and he could have made a run at any time," said Woods. "You know that any time you make a mistake on the back nine, especially if you're leading, the guys can go right by you. You have to keep plugging along."

More treacherous than the competition was the condition of the course itself, which had been soaked by rain that began Friday afternoon, causing the second round to be finished on Saturday. It made for plenty of what Woods called "mudballs." Somehow, he hits those shots better than everyone else, too.

"You had to play a lot of different shots, you had to control your arm speed a little bit better, control your angle of descent into the ball, you had to hit a lot of weird clubs," he said. "It's just part of playing on a wet course. Everyone is going to have to deal with it."

Woods never wavered. Though he rarely concedes that a tournament is over until the final putt -- whether he is ahead or behind -- Woods admitted that he knew he was close to wrapping it up when he made an 8-foot putt to save par on the par-3 16th after Goosen had just made a birdie to get to 9 under.

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