By David Kraft
Tuesday, April 10

AUGUSTA, Ga.-- Next up, Southern Hills and the U.S. Open. What's left for Tiger Woods to prove?

 Tiger Woods
He's played great, but Tiger Woods admits he's also gotten some good breaks during his wins.
In a 10-month span, he's:

  • Won the U.S. Open in a record-breaking rout.

  • Won the British Open without being challenged.

  • Won the PGA Championship in a thrilling playoff against an little-known challenger.

  • Won The Masters on Sunday by beating the best players his era has to offer.

  • He's also won The Players Championship and The Presidents Cup. He's the defending champion at Bay Hill, which is Arnold Palmer's tournament, and The Memorial, which is Jack Nicklaus'.

    The drive for five? Six? Seven? Infinity and beyond?

    "I don't know," Woods said Sunday night. "We'll find out in June."

    He's in uncharted territory for his sport. Bobby Jones won the only Grand Slam in a calendar year in 1930 (it was the U.S. Open and Amateur, and British Open and Amateur). No man has matched it -- until Woods, who won the final three majors to close out 2000. Now, he's got the first major of 2001.

    There are few comparisons in other sports, either. David Duval, who finished second to Woods at The Masters, was asked about Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak as comparable. He declined, but said the two would probably be in the same sentence.

    "I don't know what you would compare it to, because I'm not so sure there's something you could compare it with, certainly in modern golf," said Duval. "There's going to be a heck of a lot of stuff going on at Southern Hills, and deservedly so. As it stands now, it's clear that somebody has to play and beat him."

    Woods' performance at Augusta National may have been his most impressive in the streak, though comparing Woods' wins is like deciding on dinner at Spago.

    This time, he had to beat Duval and Phil Mickelson in the final two groups, with Ernie Els lurking behind. He had to do it from both ahead and behind in a roller-coaster final round. He had to do it with the pressure of knowing that any miscue would render all the "is it or isn't it" talk regarding the Grand Slam wasted breath.

    "This one was tough, knowing the fact that you could not make a mistake," Woods said. "That's a little bit different. The golf course at Valhalla was more benign than it is here. Here, you just hit one simple shot that catches a slope one foot away from being a good shot, and next thing you know, you are looking at probably making bogey or double.

    "The penalties here are a lot more severe. I think that's what wears on you, knowing the fact that you cannot put it in certain places."

    He won by shooting 66-68-68 in the final three rounds after a first-round 70. He didn't have what he often calls his "A" game early, bogeying the first hole and saving par from off the green at No. 5 (back bunker), No. 9 (front of green) and No. 10 (from the back of the green).

    I have a better appreciation for winning a major championship, and to win it – to win four of them in succession – it's hard to believe, really, because there's so many things that go into winning a major championship.
    Tiger Woods

    He took the lead with a birdie at the 11th and never gave it up. Duval caught him twice, the last time with a birdie at No. 15. He had two chances to catch Woods with birdie putts on Nos. 17 and 18, but he missed both times.

    Woods barely blinked. He led the tournament in greens in regulation. He led the tournament in driving distance. He showed a little vulnerability, surviving four three-putts -- the last at the 15th on Sunday, leaving the door ajar for Mickelson and Duval.

    But he didn't make the big error, especially late in the game. Duval made a costly bogey at the 16th. So did Mickelson. After a bogey at No. 12, Woods finished his round with two birdies and four pars over the final six holes.

    "If I'm going to win with Tiger in the field, I can't make the mistakes I'm making," Mickelson said.

    Woods didn't make a mistake, and added another green jacket to his closet. Mickelson and Duval did; they remain majorless. Woods has six majors, as many as Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino and one less than Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer.

    And he's just 25.

    During his major explosion, Woods is a combined 65-under in 16 rounds. He's been under par in 15 of the 16 rounds.

    Sunday, Woods birdied the 18th for emphasis, thrusting his fist in the air and then covering his face with his cap, hiding his emotions as Mickelson putted out. He walked off the green into the arms of his father, Earl, and mother, Tida.

    "This year, I understand," Woods said. "I've been around the block. I've witnessed a lot of things (since 1997). I have a better appreciation for winning a major championship, and to win it -- to win four of them in succession -- it's hard to believe, really, because there's so many things that go into winning a major championship.

    "For that matter, any tournament, but moreso majors, because you've got to have your game peak at the right time, and on top of that, you've got to have some luck. You've got to get some good breaks, and you've just got to have everything go right.

    "And to have it happen four straight times, that's awfully nice. Some of the golfing gods are looking down on me the right way."

    Woods won't play the next four weeks. He'll likely be at the Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas from May 10-13, then play in Germany a week later, then back in the United States at The Memorial.

    After that, it's the U.S. Open at Southern Hills on June 14-17. The British Open is July 19-22 at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's. The PGA Championship is Aug. 16-19, down the road from Augusta National at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Duluth, Ga.

    "I've won a lot of tournaments," Woods said. "I've had some very special things happen to me. I guess winning six straight USGA events isn't too bad, but I guess to win four consecutive majors is ... "

    He paused.

    "If you look at my career, I don't think I've ever accomplished anything this great." HELP | ADVERTISER INFO | CONTACT US | TOOLS | SITE MAP
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