Tiger's legend grows with runaway PGA win

For the third time in his illustrious career, Tiger Woods walked away from the PGA Championship holding the Wanamaker Trophy. (Photo: E.M. Pio Roda)
For the third time in his illustrious career, Tiger Woods walked away from the PGA Championship holding the Wanamaker Trophy. (Photo: E.M. Pio Roda)

Twelve down, six to go. In yet another awesome display of his legendary talents, Tiger Woods blew away the field Sunday at Medinah with a 4-under 68 that sent him to a whopping five-shot victory and 12th career major title at the 88th PGA Championship.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Under a beautiful, blue, late afternoon sky, with shadows splashing across the green and a mass of admirers engulfing the length of the 18th hole, Tiger Woods tapped in for par to cap a five-shot victory in the 88th PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club on Sunday.

When the putt dropped, the 30-year-old Woods threw his arms in the air, gave caddie Stevie Williams a tight bear-hug and soaked in the 12th major championship title of his unbelievable career.

"It was a special day out there," Woods said. "I just had one of those magical days on the greens today. I just felt like if I got the ball anywhere on the green, I could make it. It's not too often you get days like that, and I happened to have it on the final round of a major championship. So it was a really neat feeling to have. I was just trying to get the ball in the fairway, trying to get the ball anywhere on the green, and I knew that I felt like I could make anything. It's a special day on the greens today, and I just happened to make some nice bombs early on the front nine to stay ahead."

He finished the final round with a 4-under-par 68 and at 18-under-par 270, Woods was five shots better than 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel, who finished alone in second after a solid 5-under 67.

With the win, Woods became the first person to win the PGA Championship twice at the same venue while also surpassing Walter Hagen on the all-time major championship win list, just six shy of the legendary Jack Nicklaus.

"It's still a long way away," said Woods, referring to reaching Nicklaus. "It's not something I could get next year. You know, as I said, it took Jack over 20 years to get to his. It's going to take a career and I've just got to keep plugging along and keep trying to win these things. These are the most fun events to play in, the major championships. I just thoroughly enjoy coming down the stretch on the back nine with a chance to win it. That's why I practice as hard as I do and what I live for. That to me is the ultimate rush in our sport is on that back nine on Sunday with a chance to win a major championship. I've still got a long way to go. Eighteen is a pretty big number."

He also became the fifth player in PGA Championship history to win the tournament three times. Hagen and Nicklaus captured the Wanamaker Trophy five times, while Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead won three each.

Woods is now an eye-popping 12-for-12 when he has gone into the final round of a major with the lead or a share of the lead. It was his third consecutive win, second straight major and 51st win overall.

The top-10 on the U.S. Ryder Cup team was finalized on Sunday as well. The U.S. team that will take on the Europeans at the K Club in Ireland on Sept. 22-24 includes:

1. Tiger Woods -- 4,825.000
2. Phil Mickelson -- 2,474.375
3. Jim Furyk -- 2,076.000
4. Chad Campbell -- 1,129.602
5. David Toms -- 1,072.250
6. Chris DiMarco -- 830.000
7. Vaughn Taylor -- 780.833
8. J.J. Henry -- 778.750
9. Zach Johnson -- 756.477
10. Brett Wetterich -- 746.000

U.S. captain Tom Lehman will complete his 12-man roster with two captain's picks, which he will announce Monday at a 9 a.m. EDT news conference.

Micheel put up a fight in posting his best finish in a tournament of any kind since his magical week at Oak Hill.

"I was excited when I got to the golf course on Monday and just saw how much it really reminded me of Oak Hill," Micheel said. "I've said that, I think, every day. It really did, just with the way the course set up, the shape of the fairways, the height you have rough and the trees and everything else. I was playing some decent golf coming in, but I think what was holding me back was not making enough birdies and missing some key shots. I found that out at Milwaukee a couple weeks ago when I had a chance to win there.

"But I had just a really nice week," added Micheel. "I played well. Today I didn't drive the ball quite as well as I would have liked, but I'm not sure even if I would have hit every fairway, I would have been able to catch Tiger. He's too good."

All it took was one hole Sunday -- the first -- for Woods Woods to send a stern statement to his fellow competitors.

That statement? You're all playing for second.

He confidently rolled home a 12-foot birdie putt on the first hole to grab the lead by one shot over 54-hole co-leader and playing partner Luke Donald at 15 under par. But, Woods was far from finished.

He proceeded to make back-to-back birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 to jump three shots clear of 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir, then extended his lead to four at 18 under par with a 30-foot birdie bomb at No. 8 that snuck in the back door.

Then came an awesome display of his power when he muscled a shot out of some deep rough on the 11th hole to 12 feet and made the putt to get to 19-under.

The only real suspense that remained on the back nine was whether Woods would become the first player in history to finish a major championship with a score of 20 under par; he won the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews at 19 under.

The answer? Not this time. He bogeyed the par-3 17th -- just his third bogey of the week, which tied the major championship record-low he set at St. Andrews in 2000 -- to slip back to 18 under par, but it really didn't matter. He had that five-shot lead with one to play.

Donald, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia all tied for third at 12 under par. The Aussie Scott shot an impressive 5-under 67, while Garcia, the firey Spaniard, carded a 70 that included an eagle on the par-5 14th.

Donald, a 28-year-old Englishman who attended college at nearby Northwestern University, was the adopted hometown-favorite, but he stumbled to a 2-over-par 74 in the final round.

"I'm obviously very disappointed to have shot 74, really, considering I played nicely today," he said. "I hit a lot of fairways. I just didn't hit it quite close enough on the greens, even though I hit a lot of greens today. I really just couldn't get those putts to drop. I had a run of three big lip-outs on 4, 5 and 6. Had those went in, it might have been a different story."

Donald was looking to become the first European-born player to win a PGA Championship since Scotland's Tommy Armour turned the trick in 1930. Interestingly, Armour became the head professional here at Medinah three years after his victory.

Weir, who tied for 10th at Medinah in 1999, finished alone in sixth place this time around at 11 under.

"I played great," said Weir, who is the only Canadian to ever win a major championship. "I take away a lot. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year. Outside of the British Open, I've been in contention in every major. You know, I feel like I'm due."

Along with the Wanamaker Trophy, Woods also took home a first-place check worth $1,224,000.

Phil Mickelson, the defending champ, struggled with a 2-over-par 74 in the final round to finish in a tie for 16th.

"I struggled with the putter all week and I had a hard time making some birdies," he said. "I just didn't make very many putts. But again, you know, I had a good time this week. I fought hard the first couple of rounds when I didn't have it and hung in there heading into the weekend. Just Tiger's play, I wasn't able to catch that obviously."

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