Tiger Virtually Flawless in Capturing His 12th Major
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Did anyone else think Luke Donald’s choice of a red T-shirt was either a bit cheeky or a bold statement of intent, given who he was playing with? Don’t you think they should dye Lake Kadijah blue like they do Rae’s Creek at Augusta National? Doesn’t Adam Scott look so much better with his hair cut short at the back? Wasn’t Sergio taking a long time over his putts?
Forgive me for allowing such banal and frivolous thoughts to occupy my mind, but really, yesterday’s final round of the PGA Championship turned up as many genuinely newsworthy moments as an episode of the ‘Simple Life.’
Tiger Woods shot an almost flawless four-under-par 68, won his second major title in a row and the 12th of his career to pass Walter Hagen on the alltime list of major winners and draw within six of Jack Nicklaus. He equaled the lowest score to par at the season’s fourth and final major (-18), virtually guaranteed PGA Tour Player of the Year honors for the eighth time in his ten years as a professional, and stopped dead any fanciful talk about Phil Mickelson being ready to take over from Tiger as the game’s most dominant player.
Who couldn’t see that coming?
Donald, Geoff Ogilvy, and Mike Weir had all voiced hope on Saturday evening that Tiger might, just this once, give up a 54-hole lead at a major. Donald, the cool and confident Englishman who lives in suburban Chicago, enjoyed strong vocal support all week from students of his alma mater, Northwestern University, and spoke of going about his business quietly then popping up late in the day to grab the trophy. Ogilvy and Weir, meanwhile, agreed that Tiger’s inconceivable record when holding or sharing the lead after three rounds — he was 11 for 11, he’s now 12 for 12 – surely couldn’t last forever and that they might be the one to take advantage when, eventually, it fell.
The words “grasping,” ‘‘at,” and “straws” came to mind.
By averaging well over 300 yards off the tee, hitting ten out of 14 fairways and 15 greens in regulation and recording six single putts including 40-footers for birdie at the 6th and 8th holes, Woods buried the field with an exhibition of ballstriking and precision on the greens that none of his peers came close to matching.
And, just as at Royal Liverpool a month ago, Tiger was also at his strategic and tactical best. As soon as it was apparent Donald, Ogilvy, Garcia, Weir, Shaun Micheel, and Phil Mickelson weren’t putting the sort of numbers on the board that might cause him some concern, Tiger started aiming at the middle of the green, making par the worst score he could shoot and forcing one of the chasing pack to put together a sensational closing stretch of holes to have any hope of catching him.
“He’s just too good,” Micheel said after a spirited 69 which earned him outright second place — only his fourth top-ten finish since he won the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in 2003. “Unless you’re at the top of your game, you just can’t play with him.”
Tiger wasn’t the only happy camper at the end of play though. Micheel was pretty content after more than doubling his earnings for the year, and the PGA of America’s Kerry Haigh, responsible for the set-up of the course, once again enjoyed the praise of numerous players who felt the combination of narrow fairways, long rough, and soft greens encouraged more aggression and more excitement — over the first three days of competition at least. A handful of players remarked on Saturday evening that Medinah may have been too easy for a major and that the scores being posted up to that point somehow diminished the status of the event, but the quality of the leaderboard — a group of ten players including Woods, Mickelson, Love, Garcia, Di-Marco, Toms, and Donald were tied for the lead early in the third round — and Tiger’s reaction to winning his third Wanamaker Trophy quickly put that notion to rest.
Also smiling, and no doubt relieved, were JJ Henry, Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor, and Brett Wetterich all of whom clung on to Ryder Cup spots despite poor performances at Medinah. Indeed, Henry who finished in a tie for 41st, was the only one of the quartet to make the cut. All of them will have to improve dramatically if they are to make a significant contribution at the K Club in Ireland next month.
If Tiger plays even half as well as he has lately though, then his contribution will be considerable.