Tiger in a class of his own
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 US PGA Championship | Wrap | 21 Aug 2006
Just where this twelfth major win of his career sits with Tiger Woods is only his call. It was certainly one of his most commanding victories. Sure the victories at Pebble Beach and St Andrews in 2000 were comprehensive but there was an air of authority about this week’s performance that suggests catching and beating Tiger is only going to get tougher for his colleagues before it gets easier in the coming years.
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Afterwards Woods talked about the great feel he had on the greens today and that all he was trying to do was get it on the greens as he felt, from the 12 footer he made for birdie at the first, he could make anything. Even the putts he was missing looked to have a chance.
The first hole gave everyone of the chasers the message. They would have to come and get him if they wanted a piece of the action because he was not about to come back to them. After a 7 iron perhaps narrowly cleared the front trap and kicked up to 12 feet, his first putt of the day had beautiful pace and he had immediately broken clear.
At the next, his chip from just off the edge at the par three looked as if it too would go in but slid by. His next birdie would come at the par five 5th after a four iron found the middle of the green and at 16 under he had raced two clear of Mike Weir who appeared at that early stage as if it might be only he who could challenge.
Weir had birdied the 3rd from 10 feet, after being forced to lay up with his second, and moved to 14 under and within two. Woods playing partner, Luke Donald, appeared to be just a little out of sorts and when he bogeyed the fourth after finding a divot with his tee shot and then missed a short birdie putt at the 5th he had not only slipped out of the early tie for the lead, he had also fallen behind Weir.
When Woods added another birdie at the 6th from 30 feet he had moved to 17 under and then despite having to chip out from the trees at the 7th was able to save par. At the 8th hole he found the green with his second although a long way from the hole but when he again holed from that distance he had moved four clear of Weir.
Weir made his third birdie of the day at the 10th when he made a great up and down at the par five to move within three of Tiger but the Canadian’s challenge ended there and four bogeys between that point and the clubhouse saw him slip back to eventually finish 6th. It was a disappointing end to what had been a brave early challenge.
Others who emerged as challengers for the minor placings included Adam Scott, Shaun Micheel and Sergio Garcia, while Donald was doing his best to just hold on. Scott, who appears to be swinging the golf club better than he ever has, began to make a few putts and when he holed from 8 feet at the 9th to turn in 31 he was at 12 under and in fifth place. The 26 year old Australian made a great bunker save at the 13th and had a great chance for eagle at the 14th but the two putt birdie moved him to 13 under and he was closing in on second place.
At the 15th he added another birdie from 25 feet and had moved to fourteen under. A wrong club at the 16th cost him a shot and he then dropped a shot at the last for the third time in four rounds to finish with 67 and at 12 under his fate and eventual finishing place was reliant on those behind.
Scott would eventually finish in a share for third but importantly he had recorded the best last round of the day amongst the top twenty five finishers and he had finished strongly for his best ever major finish. That coming on top of his previous best at the Open Championship just a few weeks earlier gives every indication that the potential for a major victory by Scott will be fulfilled before long.
Shaun Micheel had all but disappeared from the scene of contention since his win in this event three years ago but here he was after an early birdie and a front nine of 34 very much in the thick of things. He added further birdies at the 11th, 13th and 14th, and made a nice par save at the 15th before a bogey at the last saw him finish with 69. As it turned out the late bogey would not cost him at all as he still managed to secure second place on his own.
Garcia came and went a couple of times during the day but when he hit a superb second to the 14th and made his eagle putt from 25 feet, he had moved to 12 under and had moved to into fifth place behind Woods, Weir, Micheel and Scott. He parred in from there but courtesy of slip-ups from Weir and Scott he would improve to a share of third.
While all this was going on Woods was relentlessly and mercilessly going about the business of winning yet another major. He found the trap from the tee at the 10th and although he hit a good third, the putt caught the lip and he remained at 18 under and four clear.
At the 11th Woods found the rough from the tee but his second exemplified the importance of his amazing power. No mere mortal could have hit the shot Woods produced there but his 8 iron landed softly 12 feet from the hole and when that went in and he had moved to 19 under, it was a case, if it hadn – t been already, of shut the gate.
At the par three 13th Tiger again defined what makes him so much ahead of the pack. He was long and left with his tee shot and found the bunker. Perhaps it was a wrong club but erring on the side of caution on a hole guarded at the front by water is not so bad with such a lead. It was his bunker shot there however that was so full of self belief and class. He had some thirty yards across the green to the flag and water beyond but he flew it most of the way there and as it released towards the hole it came to rest four feet from the hole and he made that for par. In the myriad of quality shots that he produced this week, that might go down as my favourite.
Woods did what he needed to do from that point on and when he had two putted from very long range at the last, he again fell into the arms of caddy Steve Williams and although there was not quite the same emotion there had been at Hoylake there was obvious joy and pride in what he had achieved.
Micheel held second, while Scott, Garcia and Donald shared third. Donald had a disappointing and birdie-less day but he will emerge as a better competitor for the experience. With the classy game he possesses this will not be the last time he contends for a major and next time he will be better prepared.
Of the other Australians, Ogilvy started as if he might challenge Tiger when he birdied the first from 14 feet but although he save a great bogey after finding the water at the second, he three putted from five feet at the third and his challenge had disappeared. He would eventually finish 9th, his fourth top ten in his last six majors but he will be disappointed that he was not able to press on after his good start today.
Robert Allenby was the next best in 20th place but the 17th hole again got the better of him. A double bogey there was a disappointing end to what had been a good week.
Richard Green was 37th, Nathan Green 49th, while Aaron Baddeley and Stuart Appleby were 55th.