Striking twelve

Woods clocks competition at Medinah, wins 12th major

PGA Championship

August 21, 2006|By THOMAS BONK

MEDINAH, Ill. -- The late-afternoon sun filtered through the trees yesterday at Medinah Country Club as Tiger Woods removed his cap to salute the fans who cheered each footstep of his leisurely stroll up the 18th fairway and straight into legend once again.

Woods left Medinah with the $1.224 million winner's check, his 12th major championship and his streak intact of nine straight rounds in the 60s. The numbers are more than impressive; they are dominating.

He made only three bogeys in 72 holes, played the par-5 holes in a combined 8-under par, made 21 birdies and, for good measure, became only the fifth player to win the PGA Championship at least three times.

The list is full of greatness: Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen with five, Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead with three.

The first player to win the PGA Championship twice on the same course (he also won here in 1999), Woods equaled his own tournament scoring record in relation to par, shared with Bob May, at 18-under. His closing round of 4-under 68 easily outdistanced runner-up Shaun Micheel, who was five shots behind Woods in second place.

"It was a great day out there," Woods said. "I had one of those magical days on the greens out there. I felt like I could make anything."

He seemed to come close beginning with a 12-foot birdie on the first hole, a two-putt birdie on the fifth and then back-to-back calling cards that notified the rest of the players that this one was nearly over - a 7-iron at the sixth and a 40-foot birdie putt, followed by another 7-iron at the eighth and another 40-foot birdie.

Woods said he believed he couldn't miss.

"It was a really neat feeling to have," he said.

Woods owns the scoring records in all four major championships in relation to par - 19-under at the British Open, 18-under at the Masters, 12-under at the U.S. Open and the shared 18-under at the PGA Championship.

He is the only player to win the British Open and PGA Championship back-to-back twice.

With his 12th major championship victory and second this year - he also won the British Open last month - Woods moved closer to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles.

"It's still a long way ahead," he said. "It's not something I can get next year. Eighteen is a pretty big number."

Woods has enjoyed a remarkable stretch, even by his lofty standards.

Since he went winless in 10 straight majors, from the 2002 British Open through the 2004 PGA Championship, Woods has won four of the past eight majors, beginning at the 2005 Masters.

In the other four majors, Woods was second, third and fourth and missed the cut at Winged Foot in June at the U.S. Open. If his missed cut were removed, he wouldn't have been lower than fourth in his past eight, including four victories.

Woods won seven of the 11 majors played, beginning at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah through the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. If he were able to repeat such a feat, he would catch Nicklaus at the 2009 U.S. Open - at Bethpage Black - when he would be 33.

"So far to this point, it's been pretty incredible," Jim Furyk said. "I think a lot of people predicted he would give Nicklaus' record a run, but probably would not have predicted he would get to 12 this soon."

By the time Woods arrived at the 12th tee, no one was closer than five shots. He had built his lead in his now-familiar fashion of playing it safely off the tee, making no lapses in judgment and taking advantage of his chances.

Luke Donald, who began the fourth round tied with Woods at 14-under, started slipping when he bogeyed No. 4 after missing the green and fell two shots behind Woods, who had made his birdie putt at the first. Mike Weir came close when he birdied the amenable 537-yard fifth and stayed within two shots for a while.

But Woods had a four-shot lead over Weir after eight holes, a five-shot lead after 11, and the proceedings from that point seemed more about history than anything else.

Once again, there was Tiger and then there was everyone else.

Chris DiMarco, who followed up his third-round 67 with a 72 and tied for 12th, said Woods is a special case.

"I've never seen anybody, take away Jack Nicklaus, who looks more comfortable leading on the back nine of a major than playing the first hole of a tournament, and that's pretty scary," he said.

"It's unbelievable that he can feel that comfort zone in that situation and just relishes the fact that everybody for the most part wants to see him trip. People are like, `Please make bogeys,' other people make birdies, and he just puts the hammer down.

"At the end, he wins by four or five and your hat's off to him. He's the best."

Micheel, who won the 2003 PGA Championship, said he didn't drive the ball as well as he would have liked, but said it probably didn't matter.

"I'm not sure even if I would have hit every fairway I would have been able to catch Tiger," he said. "He's too good."

Phil Mickelson couldn't get his game going in the right direction and a 2-over 74 left him tied for 16th.

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