Tiger closes with 2-under 70 for 10th career major

Woods claimed his 10th major, third all-time behind Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen. 

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- For Tiger Woods, there was no time
to pause and pose when he reached the top of Swilcan Bridge on
Sunday. A second British Open title awaited.

Woods strode swiftly across the stone arch, then removed his cap
as he walked briskly up the 18th fairway and onto his 10th major
championship, a five-shot victory that marked a defiant return to

He never trailed over the final 63 holes at St. Andrews and
turned in the first wire-to-wire victory at the Open in 32 years.
Anyone who questioned his swing changes only had to look at his
green jacket from the Masters and the Claret Jug he held aloft for
all to admire.

"I've been criticized for the last couple of years. 'Why would
I change my game?' This is why," Woods said. "First, second and
first in the last three majors. That's why."

Swilcan Bridge played prominently earlier in the week when Jack
Nicklaus bid the majors goodbye, stopping there for several minutes
in an emotional farewell.

Woods' crossing was also a goodbye -- to the competition.

"He never looked like there was a chance for him to lose,"
Nicklaus said from his home in North Palm Beach, Fla., where he
watched the final round. "It was a pretty awesome performance."

With a strong cast of contenders lined up behind him, Woods
played some of his best golf of the week. He was the only player to
break par in the final seven groups. He closed with a 2-under 70
for the largest margin of victory at a major in five years, and
more indelible links to Nicklaus.

Woods and Nicklaus are the only players to win the Grand Slam at
least twice, and the only Americans to win the British Open twice
at the home of golf. Woods also completed the "Nicklaus Slam,"
winning all four majors when the Golden Bear played for the final

Just as they did on Friday for Nicklaus, thousands of fans
squeezed onto balconies and pressed their faces against windows to
capture a historic moment. This one remains a work in progress.

"He has 10 of these majors now, and we all know Jack had 18,"
Colin Montgomerie said. "He's over halfway now. It's amazing. Can
he achieve the impossible? He's on his way."

Montgomerie provided the only serious challenge to Woods. He was
only one shot behind after a two-putt birdie on the ninth, and the
frenzied, flag-waving Scottish fans tried to will him to an
improbable victory.

Woods was never fazed.

On a breezy afternoon, in conditions so dry that the fairways
were faster than the greens, Woods didn't miss a shot until his
lead was up to six and his name was being engraved on the silver

"My only bad shot was on 13 ... and I pulled it 10 feet,"
Woods said. "And that was it. I mean, I hit the ball so solidly
today, all day. It was one of those rounds that I will be thinking
about for a long time. I'm very thankful it happened at the right

With a 1-2-1 start in the majors, Woods regained an aura about
his play in the majors. Even after he won The Masters in a playoff,
there were questions whether he could blow away the competition the
way he did when he captured seven out of 11 majors.

But that's exactly what happened on the Old Course.

He finished at 14-under 274, and even though Montgomerie and
Jose Maria Olazabal each got within one shot during the final
round, there was a sense of inevitability.

Montgomerie shot 72 to finish second at 9-under 279, his best
finish at a major since he was runner-up at the 1997 U.S. Open at

"There is no disgrace finishing second to the best player in
the world," Montgomerie said.

Olazabal lost his way in the gorse and pot bunkers and wound up
with a 74, making a birdie on the last hole to tie for third at 280
with Fred Couples, who finished his 68 before the leaders reached
the turn.

"It's hard, but I don't think it's impossible," Olazabal said
about trying to make up a two-shot deficit against Woods. "But
it's close to impossible."

Nicklaus won his 10th major when he was 32, so the 29-year-old
Woods is ahead of pace in his pursuit of a standard that few
expected ever would be touched. Next up is the PGA Championship in
four weeks at Baltusrol, where Nicklaus twice won the U.S. Open.

"When I first started playing the tour, I didn't think I'd have
this many majors before the age of 30," Woods said. "No one ever
has. Usually, the golden years are in your 30s for a golfer.
Hopefully, that will be the case."

The final round was hardly a nail-biter.

Woods twice turned away threats by making two-putt birdies, then
marched along as a strong cast of contenders -- either major
champions or players who have been ranked in the top 10 -- collapsed
around him.

Just think if Woods had not missed those two putts on the back
nine at Pinehurst No. 2 last month, when he finished two shots
behind Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open.

"He's awesome," Campbell said. "I think these were
repercussions from a month ago where I knocked him off his pedestal
for a week, which was quite nice to do. He's come back a stronger
player and a better player."

It was Woods' fourth victory this year, and 44th in his PGA Tour
career. He is tied for seventh with Walter Hagen on the all-time
list, and Hagen's 11 career majors is his next immediate goal.

"It's just hard to tell what Tiger Woods is capable of," swing
coach Hank Haney, who also felt some measure of vindication from a
year of scrutiny, said. "He's obviously a special player."

Vijay Singh was in a large group of players at 7-under 281. He
and Woods are the only players to finish in the top 10 in all three
majors this year. But a year that began with talk about the "Big
Five" is now focused on No. 1.

"He's setting the bar so high and he's so strong," Couples
said. "He's always the guy to beat."

Monty turned in a gallant effort, trying to win his first major. He
twice had eagle putts from 20 feet on the front nine that would
have tied for the lead. When he tapped in the second one for birdie
at No. 9, he was only one shot out of the lead and the Scottish
gallery began to believe.

Woods was cast as the villain, dressed in black pants and a
black vest over his traditional red shirt.

Equipped with a two-shot lead -- he now is 32-3 on the PGA Tour
and 10-0 in the majors with a 54-hole lead -- Woods played to the middle
of the green and was satisfied with pars.

But even as Olazabal and Montgomerie each got to within one
shot, everyone seemed to know what was coming. None of the 18
players who began the day within six shots of the lead could make a
charge, and Woods knew it.

Then came the decisive blows.

Ahead of him, Montgomerie just went over the par-3 11th green,
chipped to 7 feet and missed to make bogey. Monty also missed a
6-foot par putt on the 13th to fall back to 10 under.

Olazabal drove into a cluster of gorse bushes left of the easy
12th hole and made bogey, while Woods' tee shot came up just short
of the green. He pitched perfectly to 4 feet for birdie.

Just like that, his lead was at four shots with six to play.

There was no defining moment, like his U-turn chip for birdie at
the Masters, nor was there a late meltdown. Woods was simply
relentless to the end.

More than halfway to Nicklaus' benchmark, Woods sounded as
though he was just getting started.

"No matter how good you play, you can always play better," he said.