Woods beats May in playoff
The challenge finally arrived for Tiger
Woods. All that did was bring out a passion rarely seen, and a
performance that ranks among his best.
In a fitting conclusion to perhaps the greatest summer of golf,
Woods birdied the last two holes in regulation and won the PGA
Championship in a playoff over Bob May, becoming the first player
since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in one year.
This wasn't a runaway like the U.S. and British Opens. Not with
the steely determination in his eyes. Not with sweat pouring down
the side of his face. Not the way he charged after putts as they
fell into the cup, and pumped his fists like never before.
The thrills didn't end Sunday until May, the most unlikely of
challengers, nearly made a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole of
the three-hole playoff. Woods blasted out of a bunker to 2 feet,
and made the putt for par.
It was the easiest shot he had all afternoon.
Woods now has won four of the last five majors, his first in a
playoff. By winning at Valhalla Golf Club, he became the first
player to repeat as PGA champion since Denny Shute in 1937, and the
first since it went to stroke play in 1958.
Woods not only won the PGA. He now holds the scoring record in
relation to par in every major championship, an 18-under 270 that
allowed him to get into the playoff.
Last month at St. Andrews, the 24-year-old Woods became the
youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam, with an
eight-stroke victory. In June, he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach
by 15 shots.
This was no less impressive.
``The fireworks started on the back nine,'' Woods said. ``This
is probably one of the greatest duels I've ever had in my life.
Hats off to Bob. He played his heart out.''
May tested Woods like no one else in the last two majors, taking
the lead with a two-shot swing on the second hole and never giving
it up until the end.
Tiger Woods shows off the PGA Trophy. Allsport
``I think I have a big heart,'' said May, who closed with a
6-under 66. ``People weren't expecting me to do what I did. I think
I proved to them that I can play golf.
``If I would have won, it would have been a dream come true.''
Tied with Woods going to the 72nd hole, May holed an 18-foot
birdie putt from the fringe that put Woods in a perilous situation
- a 6-foot birdie putt to get into the playoff. It curled in on the
left side, Woods punching his fist and letting out a roar.
Woods took a one-stroke lead on the first playoff hole, No. 16,
but not until after May showed he wasn't going away, hitting a
70-yard chip from the rough that stopped inches from the cup. Woods
tracked his 25-foot birdie putt, trotting after it and pointing at
the ball as it dropped for birdie.
Both players made impressive par saves on the 17th, setting the
stage for even more drama on the 18th.
Woods hit his drive well to the left and into a sycamore tree.
It dropped onto a cart path, bouncing so high it hit the tree again
before rolling down the path onto some trampled dirt. He hit his
approach into the left rough, and his third shot into a bunker.
But May failed to capitalize. He hit across the fairway into
more rough, and his approach caught the ridge on the
horseshoe-shaped 18th green, some 40 feet away.
After Woods hit out of the bunker to 2 feet, May's only hope was
to make a putt that was as long as his chances.
It almost went in.
But this year - this game - belongs to Woods. He closed with a
67, his 15th consecutive round at par or better in the majors. He
has had at least a share of the lead in 11 of the last 12 rounds in
the majors, unprecedented domination.
Hogan won the Masters, U.S. and British Opens in 1953. He could
not play in the PGA because his legs were too battered from a car
accident, and the PGA was held during the same week as British Open
qualifying that year.
Hogan never won another major. Woods is still getting warmed up.
Woods won $900,000 to push his earnings to $6.69 million for the
year, already breaking the PGA Tour record he set last year. And he
still has two more months to play.
Thomas Bjorn of Denmark had a 68 and finished third, five
strokes back at 13-under 275. He was among five other players who
looked like they might have a chance to claim the Wanamaker Trophy
when Woods stumbled early.
Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal (69) and
Australians Stuart Appleby (69) and Greg Chalmers (70) were another
May and Woods came from the same junior golf section in Southern
California, although the 31-year-old May was a star as Woods was
just getting started. Few could have guessed their paths would
someday cross at Valhalla, with a major championship at stake.
Woods has won 26 times around the world, 22 of those on the PGA
Tour. May's only victory came last year in the British Masters on
the European tour, although he showed his mettle by holding back
Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, Europe's best two players.
At Valhalla, the back nine turned into match play, a format the
PGA Championship ditched in 1958. It more than held its own against
some of the greatest duels ever.
It was the best player in the game against a player few had even
heard of until this week. While Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Davis
Love III failed to mount a challenge, May seemed to relish it.
He outplayed Woods for the first half of an incredible back-nine
duel and looked as if he had a chance to finish him off on the 15th
with a possible three-stroke lead with three holes left.
What followed, however, was vintage Woods, whose legend grows
with every major.
He knocked in a 12-foot putt to save par, and May pulled a
4-foot birdie putt, keeping his lead at one stroke. It was the
first sign all day that May was starting to feel the Sunday strain
of trying to win a major.
May badly missed the next two fairways, but managed to gut it
out and save par both times.
Bob May's driving cost him the title - 5 of the last 6 drives were hooks - leaving him second shots like this. Allsport
Woods, sensing he had got a break with May's short miss on the
15th, hammered his drive 335 yards on No. 17. He pumped his fist
when he saw the flight of the ball aiming for the center of the
fairway, where it settled 94 yards short of the pin. His sand wedge
spun back 4 feet for birdie.
For the first time since the 11th hole, he was tied with May.
Both players reached the green on the par-5 18th in two, but
May's long eagle putt raced by the hole some 18 feet on the fringe.
Down to his last chance, the putt broke two directions and fell
into the cup on its last revolution.
His 6-foot birdie putt caught the left side and gently fell into
the cup, and Woods let out a shout before slapping hands with his
caddie. It was on to the playoff, with momentum on Woods' side.
It wasn't easy, but he delivered.
``This was one memorable battle,'' Woods said. ``He matched me
birdie for birdie, shot for shot. That's as good as it gets.''
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