Woods continues his US Masters domination
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2002 US Masters | Wrap | 15 Apr 2002
There were many winners at Augusta this week, none more so than Tiger Woods but there were others who could well walk away feeling pretty good about themselves.
Tiger Woods showed why he is the world number one and why the rest of the players can’t convince themselves otherwise. On a day that promised so much, the challengers to his throne fell away and left centre stage to the man who is on track to become the greatest of all time.
This win has given him his seventh major and his sixth in his last ten attempts. That is some record and most are now asking whether he will challenge Nicklaus’ record, which appears likely with the only thing to stop him is motivation or lack of it but that hardly seems likely given the driven person that he is.
The course changes have proven also to be a winner. Early in the week it appeared as if they were not having a lot of impact on scoring compared to previous years but the conditions had been amazingly conducive to good scoring with little or no wind and soft fairways and greens to minimize the risk of attacking pins that might not otherwise have allowed such aggression. Come Sunday however when the heat went on and the pins were as difficult as they had been all week the course fought back with only one round (Maruyama’s) in the sixties. There is little doubt that when the Masters comes around next year and the playing conditions are likely different then a much higher score is likely. Tom Fazio (the course redesigner) and the gentlemen of Augusta can take pride in what they have achieved.
Woods started the last round tied with Goosen and when Goosen bogeyed the first and Tiger birdied two and three, the writing was on the wall early. If there were two shots that confirmed this they were the tee shot at the fifth hole that was headed for disaster before hitting a tree and bouncing back allowing Tiger to make a bogey and then the chip in from behind the green on the par three sixth. They were shots that I believe were relevant as they quelled any possible hopes that the contenders may have had. Even allowing for that he had to grind his way through it and you felt at the end here was a tired young man who along with the rest of those in contention was drained both physically and mentally at the end.
Even though he led by four with two to play there was the outside chance of a two shot swing on the 17th which had it eventuated would have meant that Tiger would have faced the prospect of playing the last with only a two shot cushion which on the toughest hole statistically would not have been as easy as the numbers sound. That scenario did not eventuate however as although Tiger bogeyed 17, Goosen was not able to birdie from twenty feet and nobody can give Tiger three shots up the last of a major.
This win also further highlights the significant impact that caddy Steve Williams has had in the partnership with six of the seven wins coming with Steve on the bag. He joined Tiger in May of 1999 and in the now 13 majors since Tiger has won six. Steve Williams is no nonsense direct sort of guy who has just the right make up for a role that goes beyond just giving course information. Like all good caddies Steve knows when to keep it light and when to keep it tight. He has never been a yes man and if he sees that Tiger is thinking or doing something on course that Steve thinks is not in his best interest he is more than prepared to say so. I think that is why the relationship works well as Tiger respects what Steve has to say and knows that he will only be forceful in his opinion when he feels the need to be so. The last thing a player of Woods standing needs in the heat of the battle is a yes man, Steve Williams is certainly not that.
As for the beaten brigade it is hard to find excuses and they were a disappointed and perhaps disappointing lot at the end. There were plenty of emotions flowing, as those who have been there or been close to it will know the toll that the build up and execution of a major tournament can exact. It has often been said that there are accidents waiting to happen on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta and if there was any doubt about that statement just ask Vijay Singh and Ernie Els, who both had slim chances of victory extinguished by the 15th and 13th respectively. Retief Goosen can take pride in the fact that he was able to find when the momentum was going against him. His two late birdies secured second place ahead of Mickelson. Mickelson who has unjustly been the target for criticism for his inability to win a major showed courage to birdie one and two then falter but produce a solid back nine to hold third.
Mickelson has now had 6 top tens in his last eight starts at Augusta including three times third so surely his time will come soon. Adam Scott continues to tell the world what we already know that he is the next great Australian player and he is the next most likely to win a major. His performance in his first ever attempt at Augusta was, to say the least, outstanding and his ninth place and the $US150,000 along with his recent 6th in Houston will have him on track to secure a US Tour card before long if he chooses.
Robert Allenby’s 28th was his best finish at Augusta in three starts and Greg Norman defied the doubters to some extent by making the cut on a very limited preparation.
Another truly great US Masters with Tiger Woods and Augusta the winners.