Tiger Woods finding different ways to win
In modern sporting parlance, Tiger Woods has done it this year 'playing ugly' and 'playing beautiful'.
The world number one clinched his fourth title of 2005, and his 10th career major, with a superlative display of golf in last month's British Open at St Andrews.
He hardly put a foot wrong at the famous Old Course as he romped home by five shots, becoming only the second player after Jack Nicklaus to win each of the grand slam events at least twice.
On Sunday, the 29-year-old American claimed his fifth PGA Tour victory of the year at the WGC-NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio but this time he was forced to dig deep before eking out a one-shot triumph.
Struggling with his putter, he battled to a one-over-par 71 and a 72-hole total of six-under 274, enough to hold off the challenge of compatriot Chris DiMarco who fired a closing 68 at Firestone Country Club.
U.S. Masters and British Open champion Woods has always derived more satisfaction from manufacturing pars under pressure than reeling off birdies in the cauldron of major championship golf.
In much the same way, he relishes being able to close the deal in a golf tournament,- whether or not he is on top of his game.
"I'm proud of the way I have been able to hang in there and contend in a lot of tournaments while not hitting it at my best," he said earlier this year.
"My deal is to try and win every tournament I play in. That's the goal. I don't think you can be much hungrier than I've been in my entire life to win golf tournaments.
"It takes someone who is playing great golf but also getting some wonderful breaks at the same time.
"Of the tournaments that I've won, there are some that I've backed into that I probably should not have won and somehow got a victory, and that's how you can add to your win total, because you're not going to dominate every event."
Unquestionably the game's best player since 18-times major winner Nicklaus, Woods appears to be back in prime form after losing his dominant aura for most of 2003 and 2004.
He spent much of last year with coach Hank Haney revamping his swing for the second time since he turned professional in 1996 and is excited about what is to come.
"I've made some wonderful strides over the past year or so working with Hank, and what is so gratifying is that I'm starting to see the fruits of my labour," he said after tying for fourth in the U.S. PGA Championship a week ago.
"I'm starting to see why I made the changes. When you've got to put it together, I've been able to put it together."
Woods has certainly put it together in the big events this season.
Apart from winning the Masters and British Open, he finished second at the U.S. Open, two shots behind winner Michael Campbell of New Zealand, and ended up two strokes adrift of U.S. PGA champion Phil Mickelson at Baltusrol.
His victory on Sunday at the $7.5 million WGC-NEC Invitational was his fourth in seven years at Firestone Country Club, and his ninth in 18 World Golf Championship (WGC) starts.
"People like the underdog but Tiger is always a favourite," said DiMarco after having to settle for his third runner-up finish on the 2005 PGA Tour.
"I guess people like seeing other people win but you've got to take your hat off to Tiger. He's a great champion."
Fellow American Fred Couples, the 1992 U.S. Masters champion, said of Woods after this year's British Open: "He's setting the bar so high, he's so strong and he's just a great player."
Britain's Colin Montgomerie, a seven-times European number one, said: "You have to beat Tiger. If he stays fit and healthy, he has 10 of these majors now and we all know Jack (Nicklaus) had 18 and Tiger's over halfway now. It's amazing.
"Can Tiger achieve the impossible? He's on his way and all credit to him."
Tiger is well on his way and it does not seem to matter whether he plays ugly or beautiful.
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