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In his greatest victories, Tiger Woods dominated the field and left the competition feeling deflated.
This time, the dissection was more cruel &
he actually let 'em hang around for a while.
The world's best player won the PGA Championship for his 13th career major victory Sunday, not by pulling away, but instead by hanging on after his lead dwindled from five to a single stroke for a moment on the back nine.
Then, as soon as his closest challengers were feeling glimmers of hope and golf fans were settling back down on their couches &
Woods ended it in his efficient, methodical way.
"I felt like I was in control of the tournament," he said.
This one, however, felt a little different. Awaiting him in the scorer's tent after his final round was wife Elin and their 2-month-old daughter, Sam Alexis.
"That's a feeling I've never experienced before," Woods said. "To have her here, it brings chills to me. I was surprised she was out here, to see her and Elin there. It's just so cool."
Woods moved to 13-0 when leading a major going into the final round, one of the best closers sports has ever known. The final act of this unbearably hot week at Southern Hills was less a piece of art than a model of perseverance.
For pure dominance, watch the replay of the second round Friday, when he took the lead for good with that record-tying 63. On Sunday, Woods came in with a game plan that he failed to follow to the letter. Of course, he also came in with a three-stroke lead that nobody could overcome.
"I kept telling myself going to the next hole that I need to bear down and get things done, place the ball correctly," Woods said. "But I'm still in control of the tournament. I still have the lead."
This year's trivia answers were three-time major winner Ernie Els, who proclaimed before the round that he'd bet his house on Woods if he were a fan and not someone charged with trying to beat him. Els finished third.
And journeyman Woody Austin, who spent the week talking about how missed opportunities in the early rounds would bury him and was proven exactly right. Still, he showed an unexpected amount of resolve to finish second.
"I'm intimidated by the fact that I have a chance to win the golf tournament," Austin said, answering a rhetorical question about whether Woods psyches him out. "I'm not intimidated by any other person. I'm intimidated by the golf."
The win crowned Woods' 2007 season with a major, meaning he's won at least one for the last three years. It's his fourth PGA Championship, one short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen. He also had seconds at the Masters and U.S. Open &
good by most standards, but not by his.
"It turned into a great year," Woods said. "I felt like I've played well most of the year, and just didn't get it done in the first two major championships."
Woods shot 1-under-par 69 to finish the tournament at 8-under 272. That was good for a two-stroke margin over Austin, who matched or beat Woods on three of the four days, and a three-shot win over Els, who came into the final round trailing by six and shot 66.
"I'm not quite there where I think I can be," Els said. "But if I can get up to this next level where I want to be, maybe I can at least give him a real go, a run for his money. Because somebody needs to step up. He's playing some awesome golf."
Woods pushed his lead to five strokes briefly when he made birdie at No. 8 with a 25-foot putt he celebrated by pumping his fist so violently, it actually appeared he tweaked his knee on the followthrough.
He followed with a bogey on No. 9 at about the same time Els was making birdie after hitting driver close to the green on the par-4 10th. That trimmed the lead to three.
It fell to one stroke when Woods three-putted the 14th green shortly after Austin had made birdies on 11, 12 and 13. Austin, who earned a spot on the Presidents Cup team, punctuated his birdie on 12 by tugging on his ear, asking the crowd for more noise."I wanted him to know there was someone else out there," Austin said.
He had a 12-foot putt on the 15th green that would have tied Woods, though he didn't know it at the time. Maybe that was a good thing. Austin missed it.
Moments later, Woods hit a 7-iron to 10 feet on the 15th hole on that very same green. He made the putt and pointed at the cup as he stalked toward the hole, sort of like what he did when he took the lead during his thrilling PGA playoff showdown with Bob May in 2000.
But this was nowhere near as dramatic as that one.
This time, the birdie put him ahead by two and meant he'd have the win if he could simply play it safe over the last three holes. Which is precisely what he did.
"I just kept telling myself, Ernie and Woody were making runs," Woods said. "But I still had the lead. And if I made pars, they would have to come get me."
Besides Woods, Austin and Els, only Arron Oberholser and John Senden finished the tournament under par, both at 279.
The tournament was something of a success for Stuart Appleby, whose 12th-place finish put him on the international Presidents Cup team, much the way Austin sneaked in for the Americans.
Woods, meanwhile, is looking only at the big picture, which in his case is Nicklaus and his record 18 major titles.
Thirteen down, five to go.
"Hopefully, health permitting and everything goes right and I keep improving, I'll one day surpass that," Woods said.
Woods shoots under par to win No.13
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