Lucky thirteen for Tiger in Tulsa
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 US PGA Championship | Round Four | 13 Aug 2007
Tiger Woods has survived an anxious back nine at the Southern Hills Golf Club in Tulsa this morning to claim his 13th major championship and his 59th PGA Tour title by two shots over Woody Austin and by three over Ernie Els. However, it wasn’t quite as straight forward as many were predicting it might be.
A three putt bogey at the 14th hole saw Woods’ earlier margin of five reduced to just one with Austin and Els both responding to Woods’ fast start when he moved to two under for the day and 9 under for the tournament through 8 holes. It seemed unlikely that Woods’ nearest pursuers at that point, nor the rest of the field, would be able to chase him down – and ultimately that would be the case – but six holes later Austin and Els were within one.
Woods was forced to call on all his great qualities to repel their challenge and he did so in the most magnificent way after dropping a shot at the 9th where he found the rough and was unable to hole a 15 foot par save and again at the 14th where he three putted from 40 feet. With Austin right on his tail, after Els had dropped a shot at the 16th, Woods hit a great second from 179 yards at the 15th to 14 feet and made it to move two clear again.
Austin made two fine par saving putts at the 16th and 17th but needed something special at the last if he was to have any chance. He decided to hit a driver from the ground at the 18th tee looking to produce a slider. He did that but it started too far right and he was compromised with his second. He did well to find the front of the green and made a very important par saving six foot return putt to remain at 6 under and within two.
Woods was strategically unblemished over the closing three holes, hardly missing a shot and keeping out of trouble as he looked to protect his two shot lead. When his six iron from 194 yards finished 35 feet left of the flag at the last he had three putts to win but took only two and his fourth PGA Championship trophy was his.
Austin’s previous best finish in a major championship had been when 16th in this event last year and so not only has he bettered that record significantly he has also it would seem assured himself of a place on the 2007 Presidents Cup team, his first time as a player at either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup level.
Els was particularly impressive as he looked to force the issue throughout this final round. Starting six behind Woods, he made the turn in 32 and added a fourth birdie at the 10th when he bravely took driver knowing he needed to build the pressure he had been applying. Els all but drove the green at the 10th and after his birdie there he was within four of Woods. A bogey at the 12th was the result of a tee shot which found the rough and an approach which was long but he hit two fine shots at the 13th and two putted for birdie to move within three.
At the long par three 14th, Els hit the most magnificent tee shot to four feet and when he made that he was at 6 under and had moved within two. The South African’s brave threatening challenge came to a grinding halt at the 16th when he pulled his tee shot and could only lay up. His third was nowhere near the hole and two putts saw him make a bogey and the difference of three – after Woods’ bogey at the 14th – appeared too great. Els hit a fine shot to the 17th but missed from 20 feet and again at the last found the back edge of the green but could not convert.
Els finished the week with twenty birdies, two more then the champion but major golf is not always about how many birdies you make but rather how few mistakes. Clearly Els made a few more than Woods and, for that matter, Austin.
Back at one under and in a share of fourth were John Senden and Aaron Oberholser. For Senden, this finish confirms his growing status in the game. A win on the USPGA Tour last year and a gutsy victory at the Australian Open have given him a far greater self belief than has been the case previously. That he was able to recover today and fight his way back from a shaky start, which included three consecutive bogies, further confirms such. His back nine of 32 saw him finish as one of only five players under par and as the leading Australian for the first time in a major. In fact Senden bettered his previous best major finish by some 31 places. He will be an even better player as a result of his very impressive fight-back today.
At even par was Geoff Ogilvy, who recovered from his late double bogey and round of 74 on Saturday to finish in a share of 6th with Trevor Immelman and Englishman, Simon Dyson. Dyson was out more than four hours before the final pairing in round four and his round of 64 which included a bogey at the 10th catapulted him 38 positions today.
The next best of the Australians were Adam Scott and Stuart Appleby who tied for 12th, Nathan Green 23rd, Richard Green 40th, Rod Pampling 42nd and Nick O’Hern 50th.
Woods’ quest to become the greatest major winner of all time has come one step closer to reality this week. Many will say that he is the greatest we have ever seen but until such time as he passes the milestone of eighteen major championship titles set 21 years ago by Jack Nicklaus, it will be only a subjective judgement.
It could be argued that when Woods’ World Golf Championship victories – where the best also play against the best – are included alongside his thirteen majors, he already has a claim to the title of the greatest ever. In three or four year it appears that will be of little relevance as his inevitable march towards Nicklaus’ record will come to fruition.
The PGA Tour now heads to Greensboro in North Carolina for this week’s Wyndham Championship, while the European Tour players have the option of playing the Scandinavian Masters in Stockholm if they so choose.