DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods had a six-stroke lead and was on top of his game. That meant everyone else was playing for second Monday in the Memorial Tournament.
Tiger Woods joined Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw as 19-time winners.
Jack Nicklaus wouldn't be surprised if it were like that every week.
A year ago, Nicklaus watched Woods hit the ball all over Muirfield Village and save par with a superior short game to win by two strokes.
This year was different, but no less amazing.
Woods was in total control of every shot, except the 7-iron he blasted over the 18th green and into the gallery. That cost him a chance to break the tournament scoring record, but his 2-under 70
for a 269 was still good enough for a five-stroke victory.
"When you have the ability to outdistance your opponents by 30 or 40 yards and know exactly what you're doing and where it's going to go," Nicklaus said, pausing to look at Woods with disbelief,
"you're playing for second every week, unless he doesn't play well."
Everyone else found that out Monday as the rain-delayed Memorial concluded with hardly any fist pumps and even fewer dramatics -- just another victory by Woods.
Ernie Els and Justin Leonard wound up tied for first in the B-Flight at 274.
"I think everybody out here is beatable," Leonard said. "You just have to have the right kind of day and the right week. And this week wasn't it."
Along with successfully defending a title for the first time in 10 tries, Woods became the first repeat champion in the 25-year history of the tournament and joined Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Hale Irwin and Greg Norman as the only players to win the Memorial twice.
"I needed to shoot a good front nine to increase my lead and make sure the guys didn't have a chance," said Woods, who made three birdies inside 4 feet on the front. "I appreciate every
victory I get."
Els got within four strokes before his lone bogey in a round of 7-under 65. Leonard holed a lob wedge from 81 yards for eagle on No. 5 in his round of 68, giving him his best finish since a tie for third in the Canadian Open last September.
"This is like tying for first in the other tournament going on," Leonard said.
Said Els: "If it wasn't for Tiger, I'd be in good position."
But Woods made his tee time, and the rest of a cool, gray day at Muirfield Village quickly lost its suspense. The only question was the margin of victory.
Woods squandered his chance to break Tom Lehman's tournament scoring record of 268 set in 1994 by failing to make birdie on any of the par-5s. Needing a birdie on the last hole, he blasted a 7-iron from 156 yards that hit the cart path and bounded 20 yards up a hill, finishing closer to the clubhouse than the green. He wound up with a bogey.
"That was one of the worst shots I've ever seen," Woods said. "I've played in many pro-ams, but wow! I definitely need some work."
Others might beg to differ.
Woods won for the 11th time in his last 20 tour events. He has finished out of the top 10 just twice in his last 25 tournaments around the world. He joined Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw with 19 career victories on the PGA Tour.
Woods won $558,000, giving him more than $4.1 million this year -- already the second highest in PGA Tour history behind his '99 season -- and making him the first player to go over $15 million in
"In his own mind, he can get better," Els said. "In everyone else's mind, he's as good as we want him to play."
Mike Weir had a 69 to finish fourth at 276, boosting his bid to become the first Canadian to make the Presidents Cup team. Steve Lowery, paired with Woods and trying to make up six shots, instead had a 73 and was at 278 along with Paul Azinger (66) and Steve Flesch (70), who earned enough money to qualify for the British Open.
That's about what the final round amounted to -- consolation prizes.
Woods won for the fourth time this year, giving him 12 victories over the past two seasons, with the second half of 2000 still to come. The last player to win this much was Nicklaus, who had 14
victories in the 1972 and '73 seasons.
Nicklaus tried to make Muirfield Village tougher this year, with thicker rough and smaller greens with new contours. Those changes were offset by soft, still conditions the last three rounds -- and
"He's just making mincemeat out of golf courses," Nicklaus said Monday morning after finishing his 25th Memorial at 5-over 293. "Every time you turn around, it's 63, 64. Guys in the locker room were saying, 'Jack, this golf course is not that easy.' He's making it look easy."
The closest anyone came to Woods was when Els birdied the 15th to get to 15-under, and Woods made bogey at the 13th to drop to 19-under. But Woods answered with a birdie on his next hole, Els bogeyed the par-3 16th and order was restored.
Woods is now 17-2 worldwide in tournaments where he has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and the six-stroke advantage at the start of the final round was his largest since his nine-stroke lead in the 1997 Masters.
For the second year in a row, Woods will go into the U.S. Open on a winning note. He made a gallant bid to win at Pinehurst No. 2 last year, missing a short putt on the 17th, and wound up two
strokes behind Payne Stewart.
Woods said he might attend a few games in the NBA Finals if his beloved Lakers can finish off Portland. Otherwise, he'll be aiming for Pebble Beach, where he won earlier this year on another cool, gray Monday by making up seven shots over the last seven holes.
This was nowhere near as dramatic, but it counts as a victory just the same.