Woods cruises to 10th major win
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- By the 14th hole, when his lead had grown as wide as a breeze-filled kilt, there were only three things that could prevent Tiger Woods from winning the British Open.
• Getting abducted by crazed Scots intent on seeing "Our Monty" -- native son Colin Montgomerie -- earn his first major.
• Tripping, falling and knocking himself unconscious while crossing the famed stone Swilcan Bridge on No. 18.
• Disqualifying himself for singing "Brigadoon" showtunes during the backswing of playing partner Jose Maria Olazabal.
None of the above happened. In fact, almost nothing happened here Sunday to wedge itself between Woods and another coat of golf history. Woods won the 134th serving of the British Open by five strokes and, scarily enough, the margin could have been more. The only thing missing was the Old Course and the rest of the field crying, "Uncle!"
Montgomerie finished second, though that was more formality than real threat. The gracious Montgomerie, whose ear canals will need weeks to recover from the deafening and constant ovations from his countrymen, knew it would take a low number, something in the 66 range, to overtake Woods. Instead, Monty began rehearsing his concession speech with six holes left to play.
"There's never a disgrace in losing to the best player of our generation, by far," said Montgomerie.
From this point on, anyone who uses Woods and the word "slump" in the same sentence will be hit in the mouth with a 2-iron. That's all Woods heard a year ago, when he failed to win a major or PGA Tour stroke-play event. And you should have heard some of the tee-heads who cover this beat ask why, in the name of Hank Haney, was Tiger tinkering with his swing again?
"This is why," said Woods, smiling -- though you got the feeling it wasn't his first facial expression of choice. "A first, second, first in three majors, that's why."
Woods won the Masters in a playoff. Finished second at the U.S. Open. Led from start to finish here. All that separates him from a Grand Slam attempt at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in August is three measly strokes.
If Golf History were a category on "Jeopardy," Woods would wear out the clicker.
Alex Trebek: "This player has now won 10 majors before age 30, putting him on pace to surpass the supposed unsurpassable mark of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus."
Tiger: "Who is me?"
Alex Trebek: "This player joins Nicklaus as only the second player to win each of the majors twice ... becomes the youngest player to win the four majors twice ... becomes only the third player to reach double-digits in majors."
Tiger: "Who is me, me, and, uh, me?"
Not even the great Nicklaus, whose accomplishments Woods acknowledged during the awards presentation in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse, led a British Open from the opening round to the last. Nicklaus also didn't win his 10th pro major until he was 32, and needed 48 majors to do it. Woods has hit double digits after just 41 majors (only 35 as a pro).
"It's pretty cool," said Woods, later adding that "the golden years" for a golfer are during your 30s. If so, then the Royal Bank of Scotland, which churned out the commemorative five-pound bank note for Nicklaus this past week, better start working on something for Woods.
Haney, who officially began working with Woods about 17 months ago, was asked, in essence, if a ceiling exists where Tiger's game can bump its head?
"I don't think there is a there," Haney said. "That's the great part about him."
British Open officials distributed a thick packet of statistics that record everything: eagles, birdies, pars, bogeys, double bogeys and a quaint category: disasters. Woods has zero doubles and zero disasters. He played the Old Course as if he had a Scottish accent. No wonder each of his two Open wins have come at this place, the first by 8 strokes in 2000, and now this one by five.
The critical two-minute period came early on the back nine, when Montgomerie bogeyed No. 13, Olazabal, who only trailed by two, bogeyed No. 12, and Woods followed with a birdie. In the time it takes to chug a pint, Woods had a 4-stroke lead over his two closest challengers. Said the concise Montgomerie: "And that was that."
Woods finished at 14 under. Nobody else was close, including the rest of the so-called Big Five. Retief Goosen (my cagey Sunday longshot) and Vijay Singh left here 7 under. Ernie Els was 2 under. Phil Mickelson, never a factor, was 1 over. Maybe it's best to call it The Big One and the Little Four, since Woods now has more majors victories than the other guys combined.
When his final putt dropped into the hole, Woods raised both arms in triumph. He shook Olazabal's hand and did the same with Olazabal's caddie. He hugged his own caddie, Steve Williams, and then waved his cap to the crowd. Moments later he embraced his mother Kultida, kissed his wife Elin and reported to a trailer to sign his scorecard.
By the sound of it, count on a victory party to remember. The last time Woods won here, the Claret Jug became his personal adult beverage Thermos. "We tried just about everything," he said.
This time the bubbly might taste even better. It always does when poured from silver.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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