Again, Woods stands alone

He tames Old Course for 5-shot win, 10th major

British Open

July 18, 2005|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - Once again, there was no stopping Tiger Woods, not the pressure of a Sunday with a major championship on the line, not a swirling wind, not the burden of history and not the heat generated by those determined to chase him down.

The sky above the Old Course was as gray as the stone buildings that line the 18th fairway when Woods closed out his round of 2-under-par 70 yesterday, winning the British Open for a second time and completing his second career Grand Slam.

"It's a dream come true," Woods said.

Woods' 10th major championship was a picture of consistency. His rounds of 66-67-71-70 added up to a 14-under total of 274, five shots ahead of Colin Montgomerie.

Woods joined Jack Nicklaus as the only players to have won all four of the major championships at least twice, but at 29 Woods is younger than Nicklaus when he accomplished the feat at 31.

Almost from when Woods set a goal as a youngster growing up in California that he would break Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles, it seems there was no other player with whom he could ever compare. So here is another: Nicklaus' 10th major title was the 1972 Masters, which he won when he was 32.

The only other player with 10 or more major titles is Walter Hagen, who had 11.

In the end, Woods' 10th will go down as one of his most serene, although it really wasn't, despite his margin of victory. Unlike his 19-under total when he claimed his first British Open on the Old Course in 2000, won by eight shots to complete his first career Grand Slam, Woods didn't exactly have clear sailing this time. But he still overpowered the course and the competition with equal parts flair and grit.

He drove par-4 greens but also found himself under gorse bushes and in bunkers. He took unplayable lies but also hit flagsticks on the bounce.

"It's never a disgrace to lose to the best player of our generation by far," said Montgomerie, who pressed Woods for a while but was 3-over on the back nine and wound up with a 72.

"You have to beat Tiger. If he stays fit and healthy, he has 10 of these majors now and we all know Jack had 18 and he's over halfway now. It's amazing."

Woods raised his arms after making his par putt at 18. He grinned and removed his cap and waved it to acknowledge the polite applause for a mission accomplished. In the final analysis, it might not have been spotless, but it was effective.

His average driving distance of 341.5 yards was the best of anybody and his putting average of 1.67 tied for first along with David Frost, Mark Hensby and Luke Donald. And if you hit it farther than anybody and putt it the best, you usually win.

"I hit the ball so solidly today," Woods said. "It was one of those rounds that I will be thinking about for a long time. I'm very thankful it happened at the right time."

But it took awhile for Woods to turn the chase into a march of futility. Jose Maria Olazabal, who started the day only two shots behind Woods, closed within one shot at the fourth hole, but Woods' two-putt birdie at the 568-yard, par-5 fifth pushed the lead back to two.

And when Montgomerie birdied the ninth to reach 12-under, he trailed Woods by only one.

Everything changed at the 348-yard 12th, one of the holes lengthened this year in a so-called Tiger-proofing of the Old Course that added 164 yards. While Olazabal, paired with Woods, made bogey, Woods sank a 4-footer for birdie. Playing a hole ahead, Montgomerie missed a 6-foot putt for par.

And that was that. Suddenly, Woods had a four-shot lead with six holes to go.

Fred Couples shot a 68 and moved from a tie for 22nd into a tie for third with Olazabal, who birdied the last hole for a 74.

Everyone else simply fell away, including Retief Goosen, who began the round in third place but had another fourth-round major disappointment with a 2-over 74 to tie for fifth.

As Couples said, Woods was simply too good.

"He's setting the bar so high and he's so strong. He's always the guy to beat," Couples said.

And Woods seems to be picking up the intimidation factor again. After Woods opened Thursday with his 6-under round, Montgomerie said the players were already shooting for second place. If it was prophecy, it might have been self-fulfilling, but none of that mattered to Woods.

Woods is the sixth player to win the British Open wire-to-wire and the first since Tom Weiskopf in 1973.

His first-round 66 matched the lowest by a winner.

It was Woods' fourth victory this year and the 44th of his career. His payday of $1,261,584 moves him to No. 1 on the PGA Tour money list with $6.6 million and also increased his career prize money to $51,744,610.

And there's one more number to look at: Woods is 10-for-10 in majors when leading or sharing the lead after 54 holes.

Just before Woods received the Claret Jug, he was introduced by Peter Dawson, the secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, as "the champion golfer of the year."

So far, he has done nothing to prove otherwise.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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