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BETHESDA, Md. – Anthony Kim saved his diamond-studded “AK” belt buckle for the final round, then turned in a gem Sunday in the AT&T National to affirm his status as a rising star.\nThree shots behind going into the final round, the 23-year-old Kim emerged from the pack with consecutive birdies around the turn at Congressional and closed with a 5-under 65 for a two-shot victory over Fredrik Jacobson.\nKim became the first American under 25 years old to win twice in one year on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods.\nWoods, the tournament host who is recovering from season-ending knee surgery, wasn’t around to see a game that he might have recognized. Kim is an explosive talent who wasn’t getting much out of his game until he dedicated himself more to practice than partying.\nHe eliminated the mistakes on a soft, cloudy morning at Congressional and fired at flags when it made sense. Kim stretched his lead to four shots on the back nine before Jacobson made a charge that came too late.\nKim, who won earlier this year at the Wachovia Championship, finished at 12-under 268 and earned $1.08 million, moving him to No. 6 in the Ryder Cup standings and closer to the top 10 in the world rankings.\nThat his second victory came at Woods’ event held special meaning for Kim, who idolized the world’s No. 1 player as a junior golfer.\n“I would watch everything he did, every move he made, when I was growing up,” Kim said. “So to win his tournament is a true honor. I’m very excited.”\nJacobson, taken out of the mix early with a double bogey, ran off four straight birdies until he ran into trouble off the tee and in the bunker on the 18th hole, scrambling for a par and a 65.\nThe consolation prize was a trip to the British Open as the highest finisher among the top five at the AT&T National who was not already eligible. U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate also secured a spot at Royal Birkdale from a special money list.\nTommy Armour III closed with a 69 and was among six players who tied for third at 271. Armour finished with six straight pars, when one birdie would have earned him a spot in the British Open over Mediate.\nKim has a certain swagger about him and still loves to style, promising all week to break out another of his garish belt buckles, suggesting that he might wait until he got into the final group. But there was no time to wait.\n“Obviously, it’s my new lucky belt buckle,” Kim said.\nHis game is more than just bling.\nWoods first took notice of Kim last year during a practice round at the PGA Championship. During a delay on the sixth tee, he walked over and asked, “What do you think of Anthony Kim?” He clearly was aware the 23-year-old had some ability.\nDean Wilson, whose 67 put him in the group tied for third, played with Kim in the final round and saw a bright future.\n“Awesome,” Wilson said. “He has all the tools. Very confident, very aggressive the way he plays. He’s always shooting at the pins, and it’s pretty good.”
The U.S. Open figured to be the closest to a sure thing for Tiger Woods in the majors this year, but maybe not anymore.\nTwo days after his quest for a Grand Slam fizzled at the Masters, Woods had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee for the second time in five years and will miss at least four weeks while he recovers.\nThe announcement, which Woods made Tuesday night on his Web site, was a surprise to everyone except those around him.\n“He’s been having a lot of trouble,” swing coach Hank Haney said. “He doesn’t talk about stuff like that. He doesn’t want to use excuses, you know? I don’t think it affected his play. It affected his practice a little bit.”\nThe surgery was performed in Park City, Utah, by Thomas Rosenberg, who also operated on Woods’ left knee in December 2002. Woods also had surgery in 1994 on his left knee to remove a benign tumor.\n“I made the decision to deal with the pain and schedule the surgery for after the Masters,” Woods said on his Web site. “The upside is that I have been through this process before and know how to handle it. I look forward to working through the rehabilitation process and getting back to action as quickly as I can.”\nBut he will not be able to defend his title in two weeks at the Wachovia Championship. And he most likely will miss The Players Championship the week after, one of only three non-majors he has never missed since turning pro. Provided rehab goes as expected, Woods hopes to return at the Memorial on May 29.\nThe U.S. Open begins June 12 at Torrey Pines, where Woods has won six times in the Buick Invitational. Such is his dominance on the cliffside course north of San Diego that when he opened with a 67 on the South Course this year, a caddie standing behind the 18th green remarked, “He just won two tournaments with one round.”\nIndeed, Woods went on to an eight-shot victory in his 2008 debut, the first of four straight victories this year.\nBut it was not necessarily a pain-free affair.\n“Tiger has been experiencing pain in his knee since the middle of last year, and when he had it looked at by his doctors, arthroscopic surgery was recommended,” said Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent at IMG. “Tiger has played through the pain in the past, but knew it would be better for him to have the procedure done as early as possible.”\nSteinberg said the surgery repaired cartilage damage. The 2002 surgery drained fluid from around the anterior cruciate ligament and removed a benign cyst.\nWoods was limping and wincing toward the end of the ‘02 season, and it was not surprising to find out he had surgery that kept him out two months, most of that over the holidays.\nThis time, it only made sense upon reviewing the past nine months.\nWoods stumbled and grimaced ever so slightly at Southern Hills last August in the PGA Championship, when he chipped in for birdie behind the eighth green in the final round and backpedaled for a fist pump. In the final two PGA Tour events, in Chicago and Atlanta, he occasionally pressed his left foot against a cooler, presumably to stretch his knee.\nBut it sure didn’t affect his golf, not even at the Masters, where he finished three shots behind Trevor Immelman.\n“He hit 14 greens in regulation on Sunday,” Haney said. “Hard to say it was the knee.”\nWoods won the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in consecutive weeks, then tied for second behind Phil Mickelson at the Deutsche Bank Championship. That was his last loss until late March, the longest winning streak of his career, which covered five PGA Tour events, the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, and his unofficial Target World Challenge in December.\n“I knew he was going to do something this year,” Haney said, referring to surgery. “I just didn’t know when.”\nWoods has a remarkable track record when returning from a long layoff. After the ‘02 surgery, he won three of his first four events, including an 11-shot victory at Bay Hill.\nThis will be the second time in two years, however, that he missed a chunk of time between the Masters and the U.S. Open. He sat out nine weeks in 2006 to cope with the May death of his father, not returning until the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. He missed the cut for the only time in a major since he turned pro.\nOf greater concern might be the fact Woods has gone through surgery twice on the same knee in five years. He has looked immortal at times on the golf course, already winning 64 times on the PGA Tour and 13 majors, second only to Jack Nicklaus.\nWoods won 30 times and five majors since his last surgery, and Haney expects nothing less.\n“This is something he’s already used to,” Haney said. “He deals with stuff incredibly, like you would expect him to.”
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Padraig Harrington finally learned the lesson of Carnoustie, surviving a calamitous finish in regulation and a tense bogey putt in the playoff to win the British Open on Sunday.\nIn a final round that stirred memories of Jean Van de Velde’s collapse eight years ago, Harrington lost a one-shot lead on the 72nd hole by hitting into the Barry Burn twice for a double bogey, only to get another chance when Sergio Garcia couldn’t make par from a bunker.\nStaked to a two-shot lead in the four-hole playoff, Harrington played it safe the second time around on the 18th.\nHe hit iron off the tee, and another one to stay short of the burn. But a gutsy play by Garcia, who smoked a 6-iron from 203 yards out of the rough to birdie range, forced Harrington to make a nervy 3-footer to become the first Irishman in 60 years to win the claret jug.\nHarrington thrust his fists in the air, a survivor as much as a champion, and before long he was waving the Irish flag and doing his best to stop the tears.\n“I think if I had lost, it would have been hard to take it,” Harrington said. “But because I had a chance, I didn’t let myself get down about taking a 6. I convinced myself if there was a playoff, I would do the best in it.”\nIt was a devastating loss for Garcia, who had a three-shot lead going into the final round and was poised to win a major championship he has been chasing since he was a teenager. He was 10 feet away from winning, and his par putt on the 18th hole in regulation looked good all the way until it dipped slightly on the left side and spun out.\nHarrington, who closed with a 4-under 67 to make up a six-shot deficit, played the four playoff holes in even par, seizing control with a 7-iron into 8 feet for birdie on the first hole as Garcia made bogey from a bunker.\nA rainbow stretched over the course by the North Sea, capping another magical day on perhaps the toughest links in golf.\nLike the last Open at Carnoustie, there was chaos in the end.\nOnly this time, it involved more than one player.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – A strange week at the Masters saved the biggest surprises for Sunday – unheralded Zach Johnson won the green jacket, and he had to beat Tiger Woods to get it.\nJohnson pulled away from Woods and the rest of the pack with three birdies in a crucial four-hole stretch along the back nine of Augusta National, closing with a 69 for a two-shot victory and only the second of his career.\nThe 31-year-old self-described “normal guy” from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the least accomplished Masters champion since Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman in a playoff 20 years ago, but this was no fluke. Even as some of the thrills returned in the final round, Johnson kept his calm.\nAnd there wasn’t anything Woods could do about it.\n“This is very surreal – very, very surreal,” said Johnson, who was on the Nationwide Tour four years ago and has not won in the big leagues since 2004 at the BellSouth Classic. “I didn’t think it would be this year, but I had no idea.”\nWoods looked like a lock for his fifth Masters and third straight major when he took the lead after a short birdie on the second hole, only this major didn’t work out like so many others. Johnson and three other players came after him, and this time Woods was the one who backed off with sloppy mistakes – a broken club, shots that either found the water or the bunker and too many putts that stayed out of the cup.\nIt was the third time Woods lost a lead during the final round of a major, and the first time he ever failed to get it back.\nJohnson finished at 1-over 289, matching a Masters record last set in 1956 for highest winning score. And it ended a streak of the winner coming out of the final group at Augusta National ever year since 1991.\n“He played beautifully,” Woods said. “Look at the round he shot out there, the score. He did what he needed to do. He went out there, grinded away, made shots he needed to make.”\nThe week featured bone-dry conditions, more bogeys than birdies, frost coating the manicured lawn in the morning and one last peculiar sight – Woods walking up to the 18th green with no one left behind him on the course and no trophy waiting for him at the end.\nHe closed with a 72 and tied for second with Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini, who each shot 69 on a day when the course finally allowed something that resembled those fabled charges on the back nine.\nJohnson did it the old-fashioned way.\nSo much for that theory that the Masters is only for the big boys. Johnson didn’t try to reach any of the par 5s in two all week, yet he played them better than anyone with 11 birdies and no bogeys.\n“I knew if I stayed in the present, I’d do well,” he said. “I kept rolling that ball, and it was my day, I guess. Pretty lucky.”\nDefending champion Phil Mickelson presented him the green jacket. It was six years ago when Johnson first showed up at Augusta National with a ticket and followed Lefty around as he tried to stop Woods from a fourth consecutive major.\nNow, Johnson can come back to play in the Masters as long as he wants as one of the most unlikely champions.\nWoods walked away bitter again, not so much at his play on Sunday but for the way he finished in previous rounds. A bogey-bogey finish on Saturday that ultimately cost him the lead, and a bogey-bogey finish on Thursday that set the tone for his week.\n“I had a chance,” Woods said. “But looking back over the week, I basically blew this tournament on two rounds where I had bogey-bogey finishes. That’s 4 over on two holes. You can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”\nEven so, he didn’t help himself in the final round.\nTwo shots behind making the turn, Woods found a bunker on the 10th and failed to save par. His tee shot stopped next to a Georgia pine on the next hole, and Woods’ 4-iron collided with the tree immediately after he hit the ball, bending the shaft almost in half. He did well to save par there, and seemed to hit another gear on the 13th.\nWith his 4-iron in two pieces, he hammered a 5-iron over the creek at the 13th and watched it trickle down the top shelf until it stopped 3 feet away for his only eagle of the week.\nJohnson, who laid up short of the 15th green, was walking to his third shot when he heard the roar and “I assumed Tiger made eagle” to pull within two shots.\nJohnson made par from just off the green, then holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 16th to cap his run and put Woods in position of needing a charge of his own. Woods simply didn’t have it.\nHis 15-foot birdie attempt on the 14th broke across the front of the cup. And from the right rough on the 15th, needing to bend the ball around the pines, his 3-iron came up just short and into the water. He pitched to 7 feet to save par and stay in the game.\nJohnson three-putted from about 35 feet on the 17th for bogey, again leaving Woods hope. But he missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and his approach to the 17th came up short in a bunker.\n“What the hell was that?” Woods said.\nGoosen also had his chances, going out in 32 to take the lead and making only one bogey on back nine, a three-putt at No. 12. But it was a peculiar decision to hit iron off the tee at the 510-yard 13th – easily reachable in two – and he left himself only an 18-foot attempt for birdie, which he missed. He also laid up on the par-5 15th after driving into the trees.\nThe best chance to catch Johnson belonged to Justin Rose, who made five birdies in a nine-hole stretch through the 16th and was one shot behind until hitting his tee shot into the trees on No. 17 and taking double bogey. Rose finished with a 73 and tied for fifth at 292 with Jerry Kelly (70).\nStuart Appleby, who had a one-shot lead over Woods going into the last round, recovered from a double bogey on his opening hole to join a four-way tie for the lead on the back nine until he hit 7-iron into Rae’s Creek on the 12th hole and took double bogey.\nWith two double bogeys on his card, he shot 75 and finished four back.\n“I had too many doubles and a triple,” Appleby said. “You can handle bogeys out here. But once you do the big numbers, you walk yourself backwards. It was a tough day. I enjoyed the day. Would have loved a rosier finish.”
Get in the pit … Comeback Kid is back in action. Following up their uber-successful record Wake the Dead is a difficult task, but Broadcasting..., their third release, is ready to bust some eardrums. Canada may have spawned such trash as Celine Dion and Shania Twain, but these Canadians know how to rock. Winnapeg-core at its finest.\nFans will notice the departure of singer Scott Wade, who claims he was "holding the band back," but former Figure Four vocalist Andrew Neufeld steps up to the plate and delivers. Wade thrashes on "Hailing on Me," and his tough-guy hardcore background shines. Hey, he's not a bad singer, either.\nBroadcasting... is filled with variety, which can be difficult to manage without deviating too far from the path. "The Blackstone" hints at the brutal kings that are Snapcase (R.I.P). "Give'r (Reprise)" is a blur of Rise Against punk rock that segues into the slower but passionate "One Left Satisfied." The guitars are slashing, the drumming is pretty damn intense and the energy will break your neck if you're not careful. Scream your lungs out with the sing-a-long parts and chant alon--this is positive hardcore the way it was meant to be. No fashion, no preaching, no Jesus, no bullshit. Just powerful lyrics and speed and energy. \nThe whole quality of this recording is crisper and bolder, maybe even a little darker. The guys went back to none other than the infamous Blasting Room with Mr. Bill Stevenson (a certain Bloomington punk act has recorded there as well). Things are certainly not poppier and radio-friendly, and the record isn't overproduced to hell. So don't worry, it's still hardcore.\nWhat maybe makes Comeback Kid stick out more in the hardcore scene is their amazing songwriting. Wade brings a more introspective point of view to the table, and the darkness surrounding the lyrics is chilling at times. Pair the feverishly quick and frantic rhythm changes with a madman on drums and this record just might revive a genre that has been anything but stable. Comeback Kid is going to keep Bane on their toes\nComeback Kid has been the "look out for these guys" band already, but if you missed them before, don't make that mistake again. Punk and hardcore, melody and metal; it's just the right dosage. Thirty-three minutes hasn't gone by so quickly before. Hey, Victory Records does have some talented bands beneath the shit like Hawthorne Heights and Bayside.
LOS ANGELES – Charles Howell III finally ended that nasty habit of finishing second, making three clutch pars in a playoff that delivered a dramatic victory against Phil Mickelson in the Nissan Open on Sunday.\nHowell closed with a 6-under 65 and got into a playoff when Mickelson bogeyed the 18th hole. Howell put away the two-time Masters champion with his third straight par save, holing a 3-foot putt on the 4th hole and raising his head to the sky in utter relief.\n“I said a prayer before I hit the putt,” Howell said. “I said, ‘It’s time. Go in.’”\nIt was only the second victory of his career, and Howell had been haunted by nine runner-up finishes since winning the now-defunct Michelob Championship in the fall of 2002. He already had two runner-up finishes in four starts this year, including three weeks ago against Tiger Woods down the coast at Torrey Pines.\nMickelson, bidding for his second straight victory, had control throughout the playoff until coming up short of the green on the par-3 14th. He opted for putter, but it took a high hop leaving the blade and stopped 10 feet short. The par putt missed to the right.\nHowell also was short, but his chip came out nicely just beyond the cup.\n“I had every chance on the back nine to create some separation and not give anyone a chance,” said Mickelson, who twice missed putts inside 4 feet and closed with a 68. “I felt like I had the tournament in my grasp and let it go.”\nThey finished at 16-under 268.\nErnie Els (67), Jim Furyk (67) and Robert Allenby (68) tied for third, three shots out of the playoff.\nEls and Allenby both had chances to catch Mickelson along the back nine of a mostly sunny afternoon, but the Big Easy was tripped up by three bogeys, while Allenby fell back with a three-putt from 60 feet on the fringe at the 15th.\nHowell earned $936,000 and is atop the PGA Tour money list for the first time in his career. Aside from finally getting his hands on another trophy, Howell accomplished his first goal of 2007. The victory all but assures he can return to the Masters in April because the Augusta native will climb into top 25 in the world ranking.
SAN DIEGO -- Tiger Woods resumed his improbable pursuit of Byron Nelson with a result that was all too predictable.\nWoods caught up to the pack with an eagle, buried the hopes of his final challenger with a birdie and closed with a 6-under 66 on Sunday to win the Buick Invitational for his seventh consecutive PGA Tour victory, the second-longest streak in history.\nNelson set the record in 1945 with 11 in a row, a record long thought to be out of reach.\nThe way Woods is playing -- no worse than second in stroke play anywhere in the world since July -- that might no longer be the case.\nWoods won six in a row in 2000, a streak that Phil Mickelson stopped at Torrey Pines. But against a cast of challengers short on experience and victories, the world's No. 1 player met little resistance in winning the Buick Invitational for the third straight year.\nWoods doesn't consider this a true winning streak because he lost once in Europe and twice in Asia since September. But it still counts in the PGA Tour record books, and the only question is when it will resume.\n"To somehow sneak out with the win is a cool feeling," Woods said.\nHe got some help from Andrew Buckle and Jeff Quinney, both of whom had at least a share of the lead on the back nine until stumbling in a span of about 15 minutes on a cool, breezy afternoon at Torrey Pines.\nCharles Howell III provided the final challenge with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, but Woods answered with an approach to 2 1/2 feet on the 17th hole for birdie that allowed him to play it safe on the par-5 closing hole.\nWoods finished at 15-under 273 for his 55th career victory, the fifth time he has started a new season with a trophy.
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Tiger Woods was outraged Wednesday at an Irish magazine and a tabloid that linked photos of his wife to various pornography sites, and his agent was studying the merits of a lawsuit.\n"My wife, yes, she has been a model prior, and she did do some bikini photos," Woods said. "But to link her to porn Web sites and such is unacceptable, and I do not accept that at all. Neither does our team."\nThe Dubliner magazine wrote in its September issue about Elin Nordegren, his Swedish wife of nearly two years.\n"Most American golfers are married to women who cannot keep their clothes on in public," the magazine wrote. "Is it too much to ask that they leave them at home for the Ryder Cup? Consider the evidence. Tiger Woods' wife can be found in a variety of sweaty poses on porn sites."\nThe Irish Daily Start gave it front-page treatment Wednesday with the headline, "Tiger's Fury at Naked Pictures."\nInside the tabloid, it reprinted photos of Nordegren in a bikini, along with a nude photo of a woman purported to be Nordegren. Woods vehemently denied it was his wife when it first came out three years ago.\nMark Steinberg, his agent at IMG, said he was debating whether to pursue a lawsuit.\n"It's ridiculous," Steinberg said from IMG headquarters in Cleveland. "I can't say much now because of prejudice because I'm not sure what we'll do in the future. Everyone knew it (the nude photo) wasn't her. It's plain as day. You can see it's not factual. It's kind of ironic they bring it up this week."\nIt was the first topic Woods brought up at his news conference leading to the Ryder Cup, which starts Friday at The K Club.\nWoods said his anger has nothing to do with the Irish people or the gallery that came to the golf course, even on Wednesday when the course was closed for three hours in the morning because of 40 mph wind and rain.\n"I know the media can be a little bit difficult at times, but ... it's hard to be very diplomatic about this when you have so much emotion involved, when my wife is involved in this," Woods said. "As I said, I don't want that to deter from the beauty of this event."\nWoods said making public his feelings was a matter of sticking up for his wife.\n"You do things for the people you love and you care about," Woods said. "My father got ridiculed for years, and I always felt for my father and my mother the same way. My wife, we're in it together. We're a team, and we do things as a team. And I care about her with all my heart"
VIRGINIA WATER, England -- The putt wasn't even halfway to the hole when Tiger Woods turned away in disgust, removed his cap and walked over to shake hands with Shaun Micheel.\nOne round, and his tournament was over.\nAnd for the first time in two months, he left without a trophy.\nThe longest winning streak in Woods' career -- five tournaments -- came to an abrupt end Thursday in the World Match Play Championship when Micheel put him in a deep hole and waited to see if the world's No. 1 player could escape.\nWoods' last hope was a 15-foot birdie putt, and like so many other putts at Wentworth, it never had a chance. The score was 4 and 3, tying Woods' worst beating in match play.\n"I don't think you're ever excited when you've lost," Woods said.\nIt's been a long time since he has.\nThe winning streak began some four hours away in Hoylake when Woods captured the British Open on Aug. 30. Then came a three-shot victory in the Buick Open, followed by his 12th career major at the PGA Championship, a playoff victory in the Bridgestone Invitational and his 63 in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship to rally from three shots to beat Vijay Singh.\nBut in his favorite format -- 36-hole matches -- against the No. 77 player in the world, Woods finally looked mortal.\n"He didn't have too many fist pumps today, which is unusual for him in a 36-hole day, because he usually runs off five, six birdies in a row," Micheel said. "And he just wasn't able to do that."\nThe only thing more surprising than Woods' losing was the company he kept on his way out the door.\nJim Furyk, who rose to No. 2 in the world by winning the Canadian Open on Sunday, got hammered by Robert Karlsson, 6 and 4. Also losing was Ernie Els, a six-time winner of the HSBC World Match Play Championship. Els tried to rally against Angel Cabrera, but hit two tee shots out of play on the 17th hole and conceded the match, 2 and 1.\nThe only consolation for Els was the match ending about 200 yards away from his house.\nOnly two of the top seeds in the 16-man field advanced to the second round and kept alive their hopes of golf's richest prize -- 1 million pounds ($1.87 million) to the winner. Defending champion and top-seeded Michael Campbell dispatched Simon Khan, 3 and 1, and Luke Donald (No. 7) outlasted Tim Clark, 2 up.\nIn other matches, Paul Casey beat two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, 6 and 4; Colin Montgomerie beat David Howell, 1 up; and former Masters champion Mike Weir defeated Adam Scott, 3 and 2.\nWoods' immediate future was unclear. The U.S. team arrives Monday morning in Dublin for the Ryder Cup, and Woods didn't know if he would stick around the British Isles or return home to Florida.\n"Right now, I'm probably going to work out and get some of this frustration out," he said.\nWhat he needed to work on was his putting, the key to his success during his winning streak. Woods missed 17 birdie putts inside 18 feet, including one stretch of five straight holes that could have helped him stay close to Micheel in the morning.\nMicheel didn't do anything spectacular like that 7-iron he hit to two inches on the last hole to win the 2003 PGA Championship for his only victory. He was simply solid, which was all that was required.\nHe had a 3-up lead after the morning round and didn't flinch when Woods won the first two holes of the afternoon. On the par-5 fourth, Woods hit a weak chip to 8 feet and his birdie putt to halve the hole lost speed and dipped sharply away to the right. Three holes later, Micheel hit 8-iron to 3 feet for birdie to restore his margin.\n"I had my chances," Woods said. "I just had a hard time with my pace. And if you have a hard time with your pace, it's hard to read greens. It got a little better in the afternoon, but by then it was too late."\nMicheel was runner-up at Medinah last month, finishing five shots behind Woods.\n"I finish second to him more times than he'll ever finish second to me," Micheel said. "Sometimes things just don't go your way. If this was a four-day event, things might be a little bit different."\nIt was a blow to the tournament, which broke ticket sales with Woods in the field. The fans were packed behind every green to see Woods at Wentworth for the first time in eight years. This wasn't what anyone expected.\nNot that the eight players who won their opening matches were terribly upset.\n"See the smile on my face?" Campbell said. "It makes our job a lot easier."\nMontgomerie got up-and-down from short of the 18th green for birdie to win his match over Howell, then came into the press center for an interview just in time to see Micheel make a 12-foot eagle and go 4 up on Woods with six holes to play.\nA few minutes later, before anyone could ask a question, Monty wondered why he bothered talking about his win.\n"Tiger just went 4 down, didn't he?" he said. "It's a complete waste of time. Because if Shaun Micheel beats Tiger Woods, I will get a little column on page 38."\nEven so, he said he wasn't surprised given the nature of match play.\n"Anybody can beat anybody on any given day out here," he said. "And this is what's happening."\nAnd while Ryder Cup ramifications are pointless -- those are team matches over 18 holes -- it was a reminder that it all comes down to putting. Furyk found that out by missing his share and watching Karlsson tie a tournament record with birdies on all the par 3s in the morning round on his way to a 64.\nStill intact is Woods' streak on the PGA Tour.\nWoods won six straight PGA events at the end of 1999 and the start of 2000, and he will have a chance to match that streak in two weeks at the American Express Championship outside London.\nHe finished sixth in the 1999 Johnnie Walker Classic after the PGA Tour season ended. And while the World Match Play Championship is a European Tour event, Woods has said a loss counts the same anywhere.\nIt sure felt that way Thursday.
NORTON, Mass. -- What began as a rally quickly turned into a rout for Tiger Woods, who matched the lowest final round of his career Monday in the Deutsche Bank Championship to win for the fifth straight time on the PGA Tour.\nWith a splendid array of shots and key putts, Woods crushed Vijay Singh's spirit on his way to an 8-under 63, turning a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory for his longest winning streak in a season.\nThe streak began in July with a victory in the British Open, his first since his father died in May. It continued on a sunny afternoon outside Boston with some of his best golf of the year and allowed him to avenge a loss to Singh at this tournament two years ago.\nWoods needed only three holes to erase the deficit, including a 7-iron over a marsh and into 10 feet for eagle at No. 2. He pulled ahead with a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 5. He seized control with a 3-wood from 266 yards, a piercing shot into a gentle breeze that banged into the slope fronting the green and stopped 10 feet away for another eagle.\nHe played his first seven holes in 6 under par, and Singh never got closer than two shots the rest of the way.\nSingh beat him two years ago to end Woods' five-year reign atop the world ranking. The 43-year-old Fijian closed with a 68, not his best golf but ordinarily enough to win with a three-shot lead in swirling breezes.\nBut not against Woods, and certainly not when the world's No. 1 player is on this kind of a roll.\n"Tiger played unbelievable," Singh said. "He made two eagles and just took it away."\nByron Nelson won 11 straight tournaments in 1945, a streak regarded as one of the most untouchable in sports history. Woods won six straight at the end of 1999 and the start of 2000, and Ben Hogan won six in a row in 1948.\nWoods now takes a week off before heading to England for the HSBC World Match Play Championship, followed by the Ryder Cup. His next PGA Tour start will be the American Express Championship outside London at the end of September.\nHe still isn't even halfway home to Nelson's hallowed mark, but he surpassed Lord Byron in one category with his 53rd victory, moving into fifth place alone on the career list. Woods, who finished at 16-under 268, won for the seventh time this year. No other player has won more than twice.\nBrian Bateman closed with a 66 to finish third at 8-under 276, eight shots behind Woods.\nIt was a two-man race between Woods and Singh, the duel everyone wanted. The gallery cramm ed as many as five-deep behind the ropes from tee to green, with fans racing across bridges to get to the next hole.\nNo one expected such a sudden role reversal, however. Singh was coming off a career-best 61, although he struggled to find fairways and greens until he found himself having to chase Woods.\n"Vijay played one of the great rounds of golf yesterday," Woods said. "I figured one of the hardest things to do is follow a great round with another one."\nThis time, it was Woods who fired at the flags and never took his foot off the gas until he settled for par on the last hole for a 63.\nWoods twice shot 63 in the final round at the Byron Nelson Championship and once at Disney, but this was his lowest final round in a tournament that he won.\nIt also was his largest comeback in the final round since he overcame a five-shot deficit at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2000, which he won for his sixth straight victory. Woods made up seven shots over his final seven holes.\nThis rally came early, and it was spectacular.\nAfter missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, Woods hammered his driver over the bunkers, leaving him a 7-iron into the green on the par-5 second hole and making the eagle. He covered the flag with his next shot on the par-3 third, making a 15-foot birdie putt to tie Singh for the lead. And when he rolled in a 25-footer on the fifth, Woods was in the lead.\nJustin Rose started the day tied with Woods, and imagine his disgust when he saw the leaderboard.\n"I was 4 over through five holes, he was 4 under through five," Rose said. "Obviously, it was 'Game Over' for me."\nSingh didn't go away that easily.\nThe crowd was still buzzing over Woods' second shot into the par-5 seventh when Singh hit a shot every bit as impressive, from 87 yards in a bunker, the ball landing behind the flag and spinning back to two feet for a tap-in birdie. There was a chance Singh could escape without losing a shot, until Woods curled in his eagle putt from 10 feet.\nWoods turned toward his caddie and lightly pumped his fist, although Steve Williams was far from animated. It was a big putt, giving Woods a two-shot margin, making it that much more difficult for Singh to recover.\nAnother key putt came on the ninth, a 15-footer for par that Woods knocked in to build his lead to three.\n"I hung in there, but I made too many mistakes," Singh said.
AKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods celebrated his 10-year anniversary of turning pro Sunday by winning for the 52nd time on the PGA Tour, making an 8-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole against Stewart Cink to win the Bridgestone Invitational.\nWoods won for the fourth straight time, a streak that began at the British Open and shows no sign of ending.\nThis one looked to be in doubt, however, when Cink made up a three-shot deficit over the final three holes, then had Woods on the ropes the first three holes of the playoff. With rain pounding Firestone South, Cink hit into a bunker on the 17th hole and never got a chance to putt for par when Woods made his birdie.\n"Just end this thing now," Woods said he told himself standing over the final putt.\nBoth finished at 10-under 270.\nWoods won for the fifth time in the seven years the World Golf Championship has been played at Firestone, and he now has won more on this track than any other golf course on the PGA Tour. Woods has won four times each at Augusta National and Torrey Pines.\nOn Aug. 27, 1996, Woods announced in Milwaukee he was turning pro. Ten years later, his 52 victories match Byron Nelson for fifth place all-time, and his 12 majors are second only to the 18 Jack Nicklaus won over a quarter-century.\nWoods, however, said the only competition he cared about was himself.\n"It's always yourself," he said. "You're always trying to better what you've done in the past -- always. Hopefully, that's good enough to beat the rest of the guys."\nCink was looking for a peculiar repeat.\nTwo years ago, he validated Hal Sutton's decision to make him a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup by winning at Firestone. Tom Lehman picked him Monday, and Cink nearly delivered his first victory in two years.\n"There were a lot of highs and lows today," Cink said. "Unfortunately, I finished on a low."\nCink had a shot to win on the first three playoff holes -- a 20-foot chip that grazed the lip at No. 18, an 18-foot putt that missed on the high side at No. 17, and an 8-foot par putt on the 18th again that missed to the right.\nWoods was in trouble most of the time. On the first extra hole, he pulled his approach long and left into the rough but pitched beautifully to five feet and escaped with par. The second time playing the 18th in the playoff, Woods found a greenside bunker 40 feet from the flag, blasted out to eight feet and left it inches short.\n"I didn't convert, and he did," Cink said. "That's why he has the trophy."\nVictory seemed inevitable for Woods, as it often does at Firestone, when he turned a two-shot deficit at the turn into a three-shot lead with his 20-foot birdie on the 13th. No one else was making birdies, and Woods wasn't making mistakes.\nThat changed on the 652-yard 16th hole, when Woods hit into the trees down the right side and had to pitch out to the fairway, leaving himself some 230 yards to the flag. He went over the green, chipped to 4 feet and missed the par putt.\nCink, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, holed a 15-foot birdie on the 16th hole, then made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to tie Woods atop the leaderboard.\nWoods (68) and Cink (69) each had to make a testy 3-footer for par on the 18th hole in regulation -- Woods after leaving his 20-foot putt from the fringe short, Cink after lagging from 90 feet at the front of the green.
HOYLAKE, England -- Tiger Woods had an answer for everyone Sunday on another methodical march to victory in the British Open.\nOne month after missing the cut for the first time in a major, Woods was ruthless as ever on the brown-baked links of Royal Liverpool, making three straight birdies to turn away a spirited challenge by Chris DiMarco and win golf's oldest championship for the second straight year.\nHe closed with a 5-under 67 and became the first player since Tom Watson in 1982-83 to win consecutive titles.\nWoods tapped in for par for a two-shot victory over DiMarco, and pent-up emotions tore through his lips as he screamed, "Yes!" He then buried his head in caddie Steve Williams' shoulder and sobbed, his chest heaving.\nThis was his first victory since his father, Earl Woods, died May 3 after a brutal bout with cancer. Some questioned whether Woods could regain his focus, especially after he was sent packing after two rounds at Winged Foot in the U.S. Open.\nHis face was contorted in raw emotion as he walked off the green and sobbed again while hugging his wife, Elin, and his trainer, Keith Klevin.\n"I could not stop it," Woods said. "I miss my dad so much."\nThrough it all, no one could stop Woods from winning his 11th career major at age 30. He is tied with Walter Hagen for second on the career list and is one step closer to the 18 professional majors won by Jack Nicklaus, the only mark that matters to Woods.\nBut there were doubts that followed him around Royal Liverpool, host of the British Open for the first time in 39 years.\nNot only did he miss the cut at the U.S. Open, dominance in the majors was slowly shifting to rival Phil Mickelson. And even with Mickelson out of the picture and Woods clinging to a one-shot lead over a strong cast of contenders, Woods was grilled about his conservative style of play because he hit driver only once all week.\nThe answer was in his hands -- the silver claret jug.
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson is a Masters champion again, and now he's making it look easy.\nOnce known as a lovable loser who went a dozen years and 42 majors before figuring out how to win golf's biggest events, Mickelson captured his second straight major Sunday at Augusta National without needing a nail-biting finish. He closed with a 3-under 69 for a two-shot victory over Tim Clark and his second green jacket in three years.\nThe only surprise was the way he won.\nThere were no thrills for Phil, but calculated shots that forced Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh to try to catch him. Instead, they stumbled along with three-putts and a litany of other mistakes that allowed Mickelson to stroll up the 18th fairway with no worries.\nHe won his first major at Augusta two years ago with an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole. He added the PGA Championship last year at Baltusrol with a flop shot to 2 feet for another decisive birdie on the final hole.\nMickelson's only bogey on a breezy afternoon at Augusta National came when it no longer mattered. He missed the 18th green to the left, chipped to 20 feet and settled for two putts.\nThis time, he didn't leap with arms thrust into the air, as he did two years ago. Mickelson simply smiled and walked off the green and into the arms of his wife and children.\nHe finished at 7-under 281 and earned $1.26 million, putting him atop the PGA Tour money list. The victory also moved him up to No. 2 in the world ranking behind Woods.\nMickelson also emerged as a major threat to Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 victories in Grand Slam events. This was the third straight year Mickelson has won a major -- Woods is the only other player to have done that in the last 20 years. Only five others have won majors in three straight seasons since the Masters began in 1934.\nClark holed a bunker shot from across the 18th green for birdie that left him alone in second with a 69.\nWoods, trying to become the first player to twice defend his title at the Masters, could only blame his putter. He had two eagle putts inside 15 feet on the back nine and missed them both, and he had seven three-putts this week. He holed a 25-foot birdie on the 18th hole that just about made him curse, even though it gave him a 70 and a tie for third.\nJoining him at 4-under 284 were Couples (71), Retief Goosen (69), Chad Campbell (71) and Jose Maria Olazabal, whose 66 was the best score all week on the super-sized course.\nBut it was Couples who had the best chance to challenge Mickelson, and had he won it would have been especially \npoignant.\nThis is the 20-year anniversary of Nicklaus' stunning back-nine charge to win his sixth green jacket at age 46. Couples was poised to become the oldest Masters champion, and he hung with Mickelson until his putter betrayed him.\nFirst came a three-putt on the 11th, his 3-foot par putt spinning around the cup. On the 14th hole, Couples had a 4-foot birdie putt to pull within one shot. It caught the lip and spun 6 feet away, and he missed that one, too.\nMickelson poured it on with an eagle chip that caught the lip on the 15th and steady pars the rest of the way until the 18th.\nThen it was off to Butler Cabin, where Woods slipped the green jacket on Mickelson's shoulders.\n"Great playing," Woods told him.\nIf Woods bothers to look at the highlights, they will look awfully familiar.\nThe last time Augusta National was overhauled to add length, Woods built a big lead and let an All-Star cast of contenders collapse around him with shots into the woods and the water.\nThe course was stretched even more for this Masters -- at 7,445 yards, the second-longest in major championship history. And Mickelson played it impeccably. The longest par putt he had all day -- besides the meaningless one on the 18th hole -- was the 5-footer he made after a solid bunker shot on the 10th.\n"I knew it was going to be a tough day," Mickelson said. "Fred and I kept saying how much fun it was to be in the final group at the Masters. I was sorry to see what happened at 14. I think we would have had a great duel coming down those last four holes."\nMickelson won for the 29th time on the PGA Tour, tying him for 17th on the career list.\nAnd he became the first Masters champion since Sandy Lyle in 1988 to win the week before coming to Augusta. Mickelson captured the BellSouth Classic last week by 13 shots.\nThis one was closer, but it sure didn't seem that way.
All signs point toward Michelle Wie turning pro at the Samsung World Championship next month, which begins just a couple of days after her 16th birthday.\nThe tournament will be her final LPGA Tour event of the year. Still, her father remained guarded about his daughter's future plans.\n"Everyone seems to know what I'm doing," B.J. Wie said last week from his office at the University of Hawaii. "Nothing is firmed up. I have not made any decisions. We're still working on a number of things."\nGolf World magazine, citing a source involved in ongoing endorsement negotiations who requested anonymity, reported on its Web site Tuesday night that Wie will declare herself a pro before the end of the month to minimize distractions in her pro debut.\nB.J. Wie did not immediately return a telephone call Tuesday seeking comment on the report.\nHis daughter turns 16 on Oct. 11, two days before the start of the tournament in Palm Desert, Calif.\nShe is not expected to petition LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens to waive the tour's age requirement of 18, but will take six sponsor's exemptions on the Tour, plus whatever she can get on the PGA Tour, and in Europe (men and women) and Asia (men and women).\nHad she taken prize money this year, Wie would have earned $640,870, enough to be 12th on the LPGA money list in just seven tournaments.\nThe junior at Punahou School in Honolulu still holds to her dream of playing on the PGA Tour one day, but her father said her first priority is to become an LPGA Tour member.\n"Michelle will not bypass the LPGA," her father said. "She will never use the LPGA as a training ground. She will play continuously on the LPGA. At some time, she will try to get her PGA card through the seven maximum exemptions, or if that doesn't work out, go through qualifying. But we don't know when that time will be."\nHe said he is still poring through offers from management agencies, potential endorsements and trying to figure out her best path, but appears to be moving cautiously.\n"There's so many things to take care of," Wie said. "I'm just an ordinary professor. I'm trying to be conservative. If I made a mistake, and she finds out I made a mistake, she'll blame me forever"
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods is the Masters champion once again, turning back a surprising challenge Sunday with a shot of sheer magic and a birdie putt to win a playoff he never expected.\nA spectacular finish of birdies and bogeys finally ended when Woods produced the most important shot of all -- a 15-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to capture his fourth green jacket and finally put away the gritty Chris DiMarco.\nWoods knew it was over when the ball was a foot from the hole, taking two steps to the left as a smile creased his face and his right fist punched the air with fury.\nEverything else about this Masters was up in the air to the very end.\nFirst came the most improbable birdie on the par-3 16th, when Woods skipped his chip shot up the slope and watched it crawl 25 feet down to the cup, where it paused for 2 full seconds before dropping.\n"I would rank that as one of the best ones I've ever hit," Woods said. "It turned things around. It was pretty huge."\nThen came an even bigger surprise. The greatest closer in golf, who had never lost a third-round lead in a major, looked like a first-timer at Augusta National, making a mess out of the last two holes to finish with two bogeys and allow DiMarco one more chance.\nWoods made sure that was all he got.\nDiMarco came up short of the green, just as he had in regulation, and chipped up for a tap-in par. He took his hat off and ran his hand through his hair, crouched and kept looking up at Woods and down at his feet, afraid to watch, perhaps knowing what was about to happen.\nWhen the ball disappeared, DiMarco walked slowly over to Woods and congratulated him.\nWoods closed with a 1-under 71 and won for the second time in a playoff at a major, wrapping up a long and bizarre week at Augusta National that included two rain delays, an eagle putt that Woods rolled off the green and into the creek, a record run of birdies to get back into the contention and, finally, the fight of his life.\nIt showed at the closing ceremony, where he cried while dedicating this Masters victory to his father, who was too ill to leave his hotel room.\n"Every year that I've been lucky enough to win this tournament, my dad's been there to give me a big hug. And today, he wasn't there," Woods said, his voice cracking and his eyes filling with tears. "I can't wait to get home and see him, and give him a big bear hug."\nWoods never needed so many heroics to win his previous three Masters.\nDiMarco was responsible for that.\n"This was one fun victory, but also a lot of work because I was playing with one heck of a competitor," Woods said. "Chris has got no backoff in him. He'll come at you ... and that's what he did today. He put up a heck of a fight."\nWoods emerged from this battle with his ninth major, tied with Ben Hogan and Gary Player, halfway home to the standard set by Jack Nicklaus. He joined Nicklaus (six) and Arnold Palmer (four) as the only players with at least four Masters titles.\nStill, this didn't look like the same player who won his first eight majors.\nAt times Woods was simply brilliant, especially when he made up a four-shot deficit in just two holes when the third round resumed Sunday morning. He tied a Masters record with seven straight birdies on his way to a 65, giving him a three-shot lead going into the final round.\nBut he made the kind of mistakes rarely seen from Woods in the final round of a major -- a three-putt on the fifth hole from about 25 feet, a poor bunker shot on the 13th. All of them raising DiMarco's hopes.\n"Anytime you can make him hiccup a little bit, you know you're doing something right," DiMarco said.\nUltimately, all that mattered to Woods was having defending champion Phil Mickelson slip the green jacket over his shoulders in the Butler Cabin, and being a major champion again for the first time in nearly three years.\nFor DiMarco, it was the second straight year he saw the winning putt on the 18th hole at Augusta National. He played with Mickelson in the final group when Lefty rolled in an 18-footer from about the same spot as Woods.\nHis consolation was a 4-under 68, and a steely performance that kept fans on edge to the end.\n"I was ready to win," DiMarco said. "I will be ready to win next year. I certainly feel like I can."\nBoth players finished at 12-under 276.\nWoods won for the third time this year and returned to No. 1 in the world ranking.\nDiMarco won over the crowd with his fist pumps and resiliency. After finishing the rain-delayed third round with a back-nine, 5-over-par 41 Sunday morning, DiMarco outplayed Woods in the final round and could easily have won except for missing four birdie putts inside 8 feet.\nHe also was up against some magic right out of Woods' glorious past.\nWoods was clinging to a one-shot lead and on the ropes, sailing his tee shot long over the par-3 16th green with DiMarco facing a 15-footer for birdie. Woods played his chip up the slope and watched it trickle down, begging from his knees for it to keep going. When it stopped, then dropped, it looked as though Woods had the Masters won.\nBut even a two-shot lead with two holes to play wasn't enough.\nWoods sliced his tee shot on No. 17 into the pines, couldn't reach the green and escaped with bogey when his pitch rolled off the green. He sailed his approach on the 18th into the bunker on the right and made another bogey.\nThat forced the 13th playoff in Masters history, and the second one in three years.\nU.S. Open champion Retief Goosen closed with a 67 and tied for third with Luke Donald of England, who shot 69. They finished seven shots behind the leaders.\nMickelson and Vijay Singh played in the final round and barely spoke, having argued over spike marks earlier in the week. Singh got the last laugh with a birdie on the 18th for a 72, allowing him to finish one shot ahead of Lefty.\nBut that was just the undercard.\nFrom a staggering rally by Woods in the morning -- he made up a four-shot deficit in 22 minutes with five shots -- to a shocking collapse at the end, Augusta National lived up to its reputation as the most dramatic stage in golf.\n"I hope we put on a good show for all of you," Woods said.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - And to think it used to take only two days to play 72 holes of championship golf.\nThe Players Championship turned into a wet, controversial mess Sunday when yet another round of storms all but promised to extend the PGA Tour's most prestigious event into six days, most of that spent indoors.\nLuke Donald of England played nine holes -- six in the morning to complete his second round at 4-under 68 and join three others in the 36-hole lead at 10-under 134; then three in the afternoon before rumbles of thunder heralded the arrival of heavy rain that pounded the TPC at Sawgrass.\nPlayers were sent home 2 1/2 hours later, with Donald and Joe Durant tied at 11 under par. Tim Herron, who tied the tournament record earlier Sunday with six straight birdies, was one shot behind along with defending champion Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Zach Johnson.\nThey were to return at 7:15 a.m. with hopes the Stadium Course would be ready.\nAny other week, the tour almost certainly would settle for a 54-hole winner. But with a five-year exemption at stake and a tournament billed as the fifth major, the tour wants to go the distance.\nDuring the first rain delay on Friday, the four players on the PGA Tour policy board agreed to give commissioner Tim Finchem the authority to extend The Players Championship to Tuesday, if necessary.\n"We felt like if this tournament is of the stature that most believe it is, we should make every effort to get in 72 holes," said Durant, who is on the board. The others are David Toms, Davis Love III and Scott McCarron.\nHerron said there was grumbling in the locker room about whether it should go to Tuesday and, despite being one shot off the lead barely halfway through the event, he doesn't think it should last more than another day.\n"I guess the board voted on that during the tournament," Herron said. "I think that's kind of different, to vote on something while play has already been played. They're going to tell us something, you're going to have to do it. An opinion is just an opinion. I'm not the commissioner."\nDurant sensed a difference in opinion during the 2 1/2 hours of delay.\n"After I had a chance to reflect on what I said, I should have thought more about it before I spoke," Durant said. "We have regulations in place that are to tell us what to do in situations like this. But in a tournament of this magnitude, where you're awarding a five-year exemption, it's not a typical tournament.\n"I stick by my decision. This tournament is a notch above."\nIt's certainly a tournament like no other.\nLost in the slop and puddles on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass were some compelling moments Sunday.\nSteve Jones, the first-round leader who had to wait 50 hours before his next shot, was still tied for the lead with nine holes to play in the second round until be made double bogey on consecutive holes, shot 43 on the back nine and wound up with a 77, knocking him well off the pace.\nTiger Woods was fortunate to still be playing.\nHe extended his record cut streak to 140, but returned Sunday morning by hitting into an unplayable lie at the base of a palmetto bush and making double bogey, making him fight to make the cut at Sawgrass for the second straight year. Woods was on the cut line when he holed a 12-foot par putt on the 16th.\nBy the time he got to No. 18 at 2 under par, the cut had dropped to 1 under. He made bogey to make the cut on the number. It was his closest call since making the cut on the number at the 2003 Masters.\nHerron returned Sunday morning to face the toughest par 3, the 219-yard eighth, and he ran off a string of six birdies that shot him into contention with a 66.\n"I think I was still asleep. That probably helped," Herron said. "I finally woke up when the sixth one came, and made double bogey."\nBut the moment that summed up the week came at the end of play Sunday afternoon.\nScott had just spun a wedge back to 2 feet on the soft, spongy green at No. 4 for his third birdie in four holes. He was one off the lead, and he laced a 3-wood down the middle of the fifth fairway.\nThen came a low roar of thunder behind him, and he turned and bowed his head.\n"Everyone wants to be out there playing and getting on with the tournament," Scott said. "It's such a great event, and it's a shame it's been spoiled by rain."\nOpinions were divided whether the tournament should be cut short to 54 holes.\nScott, who won the Nissan Open in a playoff after rain allowed for only 36 holes at Riviera, is all for it.\n"If it means going to Tuesday, I think that's the right thing to do," he said.\nThe last time a PGA Tour event ended on a Tuesday was the 1980 Tucson Open.\nA week like this must have made players pine for the days when the U.S. Open and British Open were contested over two days. That changed in 1926.\nAnd for those who believe The Players Championship should be moved to May?\nAt this rate, it might end in May.
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson in a green jacket -- even he had a hard time believing it.\nThe final leg in his odyssey to win a major championship came down to an 18-foot putt Sunday, the kind Mickelson had grown weary of watching others make as he stood to the side.\nThis time, the last chance belonged to him, a birdie putt that kept him in suspense to the very end. It rolled toward the cup, swirled around the left edge and dropped in.\nMickelson leapt as high as he could and threw both arms in the air, kissed the ball he plucked from the cup and tossed it into a delirious crowd that felt the same way.\nFinally!\n"It almost feels like make-believe," Mickelson said. "My first thought was, 'I did it! I finally did it!' I knew I could, but I finally did it."\nThose who doubted only had to look at his poise along a dramatic back nine at Augusta National as Ernie Els tried to pull away with an eagle, a birdie and a collection of clutch pars.\nMickelson birdied five of the last seven holes and shot 31 on the back -- the best finish by a Masters champion since Jack Nicklaus had a 30 in 1986. He closed with a 69.\nThe best proof of all was a 43-long green jacket.\n"I can't believe this is happening," Mickelson said after Mike Weir slipped the jacket over his shoulders. Sure beats the other thing he's been carrying on his back for 12 years.\n"This is the fulfillment of dreams," he said. "I'm just proud to be a champion here. It was an exceptional, unbelievable back nine, and it's something I'll remember forever and ever."\nEven as he sat in fabled Butler Cabin, he was reliving the 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th that gave him a share of the lead, and an 18-footer on the final hole that made Mickelson only the fourth player in Masters history to win with a birdie on the final stroke of the tournament.\nUntil Sunday, he was known as the best player to have never won a major.\nNow, he's simply one of the best in the game.\n"I didn't think there was any way he would miss it," said Chris DiMarco, who played in the final group and had a par putt from exactly the same line that allowed Mickelson to get a good read.\nEls felt helpless after closing with a 67. He was rapping putts on the practice green, hopeful of a playoff and a chance for the third leg of the Grand Slam, but was jolted into despair at the sound of the cheer.\n"I played as good as I could," Els said. "What more can you do, you know?\nMickelson knows that feeling all too well. Of the half-dozen close calls he has had in the majors, nothing was more jarring than Payne Stewart holing a 15-foot par putt on the final hole at Pinehurst to win the 1999 U.S. Open, or David Toms making par from 12 feet at the 2001 PGA Championship to beat Mickelson by one shot.\n"I think Phil deserved this one," Els said. "Full credit to him."\nBefore walking into the scoring hut to sign his card, Mickelson grabbed daughter Amanda and said, "Daddy won. Can you believe it?"\nMickelson finished at 9-under 279 and earned $1.17 million for his 23rd career victory.\nThis was the sixth straight major won by a first-timer -- something that had never happened in 144 years of championship golf.\nK.J. Choi holed a 5-iron from 220 yards on the 11th hole for eagle, kept his hopes alive with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 13th but wound up with a 69, three shots behind.\nTiger Woods was long gone before the fireworks started. He made a double bogey -- his third of the tournament -- on the 13th hole and shot 71, leaving him 11 shots out of the lead in a tie for 22nd, his worst finish ever at the Masters.\nWoods now has gone seven majors without winning, and he has played his last five over par.\nBut this Masters didn't need him to deliver the drama.\nWith aces and eagles, so many spectacular shots along the back nine the gallery was out of breath, it came down to Mickelson and Els in a duel as good as any at a major championship.\nEls, playing two groups ahead of Mickelson, beat him on the par fives with an eagle and a birdie.\nMickelson answered with an approach to the dangerous 14th that grazed the cup for a tap-in birdie, and a 15-foot birdie on the par-3 16th, a hole that has haunted him in the past.\n"Baby!" Mickelson said as he trotted off the green, tied for the lead with two holes to play.\nPlaying the final hole, Els hit into a bunker so deep he could only see the hazy sky. He blasted out and said, "Be right!" and it stopped some 25 feet behind the cup. His birdie putt turned just left of the hole.\nMickelson had never come to the final hole in a major with a share of the lead.\nHe never faced a more important putt in his life. He never showed so much raw emotion when it was over.\n"I was watching myself look like an idiot on the 18th green after I made the putt and really didn't care," he said. "It was just so much fun."\nOnly two other players -- Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper (31) and MacDonald Smith (24) -- had more PGA Tour victories than Mickelson's 22 without ever winning a major.\nSome began to doubt it would ever happen, especially since Mickelson was coming off his worst season ever. A year ago, he nearly lost his wife, Amy, during a difficult birth of their first son.\nHe refused to start practicing until Jan. 1, determined to put last year behind him. Now, Mickelson can look forward to many more tries at majors without the pressure of having to win his first.\n"Get used to me, because I'm going to be back every year," he told Augusta National members.\nIt wasn't easy -- not over the last 12 years, not over the last 12 holes.\nDespite two sloppy bogeys out of bunkers, Els shot into the lead and took control with a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 7, then one of the purest shots of the day -- a five-iron that caught enough of the slope at No. 8 to feed down to 6 feet for an eagle.\nThat put the Big Easy in the lead, and set the stage for the typical high drama at the Masters.\nSo much for the changes taking away all the excitement on the back. This was as thrilling a Sunday afternoon as there has ever been at the Masters.\nPadraig Harrington made a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th and Kirk Triplett aced the same hole a few minutes later.\nSergio Garcia whet everyone's appetite by playing the final four holes in 4 under par -- one of those an eagle from inside a foot on No. 15 -- for a 31 on the back nine and a 66, the lowest score of this Masters.\nMickelson couldn't help but hear it all. First came the cheers for him -- "It's your year, Phil. Make it happen!" -- one man shouted. Then came the roars from all corners of the course.\nThe last cheer was for him. That was a first.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods sometimes adds green to his wardrobe in April, but that usually means a jacket from Augusta National -- not fatigues from Fort Bragg.\nThe day after the Masters, the world's No. 1 golfer will swap his spikes for Army boots.\nInstead of retreating to his lavish home in Isleworth, Woods will stay in the barracks at Army Special Forces headquarters and spend a week in military training.\n"If I was never introduced to golf, I would be doing something like that," Woods said. "Hopefully, something in the Special Ops arena. It's the physical and mental challenge of it all. We'll see what happens."\nNo one is more curious than his father, an ex-Green Beret who trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., during the Vietnam War, and then taught his son to take no prisoners on the golf course.\n"He's a very independent individual, and he plays an individual sport," Earl Woods told The Associated Press. "Quite frankly, he's not in the business of people telling him what to do. This will be a broadening experience for him."\nThis is clearly a case where father knows best.\nEarl Woods first trained at Fort Bragg in 1963 following a tour in Vietnam, and he was assigned to a Special Forces unit at Fort Bragg before leaving for another tour in 1970.\nHe did not remember the years he was there, only the schedule he had to keep.\nHe was up every morning at 5:30 for inspection, where a single thread out of place on the uniform meant push-ups. That was followed by physical training, including a run in boots he had spent the night spit-shining for inspection. Then it was time to change clothes, work all day until dinner at 7:30 p.m., and start over in the morning.\n"He'll learn a lot more respect. He'll learn a little bit about dedication," Earl Woods said. "And he'll learn an awful lot about himself, and how he can handle it. He'll come out a lot stronger than he went in."\nWhy would the world's best golfer, who earns close to $90 million a year, sign up for this working vacation?\nEarl Woods only wonders what took him so long.\n"He probably wants, in the recesses of his mind, to walk the steps I walked," the father said. "He was always inquisitive about the training I put him through, the mental-toughness training. He wanted to know where that came from. I equated it to experiences I've had in the military, especially in Special Ops.\n"Now, he wants to experience it."\nWoods is to arrive at Fort Bragg April 12, spend four days in training and conclude his week by conducting a junior golf clinic for families at Fort Bragg.\nSoldiers will train him in weapons and military tactics before sending him on a mission as part of a Special Forces team, Bragg spokesman Lt. Col. Billy Buckner said. Also in the works is a lesson in skydiving and a tandem jump with the Army's parachute team.\n"I don't think they're going to put me through the ringer as what they would do," Woods said. "But hopefully, it will be close."\nBesides being the most physically fit among golfers, Woods' mental strength is what separates him from the others.\nHe has a knack for playing his best under severe pressure, such as winning the Masters in 2001 for an unprecedented fourth consecutive major. His record is 30-2 when he leads going into the final round.\nBut this mental toughness did not come from any boot camp.\nEarl Woods never put his son through sleep deprivation. He did not scream 2 inches from his face. He did not make his son take 5-mile runs before going to kindergarten.\nThe training came in the form of gamesmanship.\n"I tried to break him down mentally," Earl Woods said. "I tried to intimidate him verbally."\nEven as Woods was collecting junior golf trophies, his father routinely laughed at his mistakes.\nDuring casual rounds, when Woods was at the top of his swing, his father would toss a half-dozen balls at his feet, jangle coins in his pocket or call out to him, "Water on the right. OB on the left."\n"He would stop and look at me with the most evil look, but he wasn't permitted to say anything," Earl Woods said. "He always had an escape word if it got to be too much, but he never used it.\n"One day, I did all my tricks, and Tiger looked at me and smiled. At the end of the round, I made him a promise. I said, 'Tiger, you'll never run into another person as mentally tough as you.'\n"He hasn't, and he won't."\nDespite his mental fortitude, and his overwhelming success in golf, Tiger Woods knows where to draw the line.\nHe's a golfer, not a soldier.\n"There's no physical challenge in golf," he said. "We walk around for 4 1/2 hours. That's not tough. Their mental toughness is what I would equate to how I used to train in cross country, because it's more physical. These guys run miles upon miles carrying a 40-pound sack and two quarts of water and flannel and rifles. That's tough."\nEarl Woods doesn't travel with his son as much as he used to, although he will be at the Masters and accompany his son to Fort Bragg.\n"But I will not be with him during his training exercises," the father said. "I've been through them. I don't need to learn anything else. But I'll have plenty to talk to him about when he finishes"
GEORGE, South Africa -- The photo on the front page of the Cape Times sent a strong signal to captain Jack Nicklaus that the Americans were not taking this Presidents Cup lightly.\nThere was Tiger Woods, dressed in shorts and sneakers, hitting balls on the range two days before the U.S. team was scheduled to arrive on the Links Course at Fancourt.\n"We have two great teams that both want to play well and want to do well," Nicklaus said Tuesday. "I know that when I see that Tiger Woods showed up early, and Charles Howell III, Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas.\n"They all four were here a day before anybody was supposed to be here to play the golf course and get ready for it. You knew they wanted to play well."\nThe Presidents Cup has always featured two of the best teams in golf.\nThe only other time it was played outside the United States, it seemed only one of them wanted to play well.\nThe Americans suffered their worst defeat ever in team competition, 20 1/2-11 1/2, five years ago at Royal Melbourne in Australia.\nMost of them complained about having to travel so far with the holidays approaching. Some players spent the days leading up to the matches shopping online for gifts.\nNow, they know what's in store for them -- an International team that Nicklaus called the favorite, a links-styled course with humps and mounds from tee to green, and thousands of people pulling for the other side.\n"When we went to Australia in '98, we did not play our best," Phil Mickelson said. "So, we're looking at it as a real challenge for us to bring out the best game and put up good matches. We very much want to keep the cup.\n"We've only lost it one time. We'd like to keep it that day."\nThe '98 Presidents Cup was played two weeks before Christmas, and a month after the PGA Tour season ended.\nNineteen players from both teams were in the season-ending Tour Championship just two weeks ago. Justin Leonard and Jim Furyk arrived Monday night after tying for fifth in the World Cup at Kiawah Island, S.C.\n"We're going to give a much better effort," Davis Love III said. "This time, it's closer to our golf season. In Australia, it was a strange feeling playing that kind of a big competition that far away from the season.\n"Hopefully, we can do a better job for Jack than we did last time."\nIt still might not be that simple.\nThe Links Course at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate was designed by International captain Gary Player and only opened three years ago.\nErnie Els, who has a summer house along the beach, is the only player who knows it well. The rest might feel as though they have been taken back in time four months to the British Open at Royal St. George's.\n"You're going to get some funny bounces out here," Nicklaus said.\nThe fairways have so many humps and mounds that they seem better suited for a motocross bike race, or perhaps a freestyle skiing moguls' competition if the Southern Cape ever got any snow.\nThe rough is thick, and not difficult to find.\nDuring a practice round Monday, Woods hit a drive that carried a bunker and appeared to be perfect. Only when he got to his ball on the par-5 13th did he notice it was in the shaggy grass. Woods proceeded to step off the width of the fairway.\nIt was 10 yards at the narrowest point.\n"The fairways are very fast, very undulating," Woods said. "You've got to really make sure you've got your lines right off the tee because some of the bunkers are pretty high, and you can get blocked out easily."\nSome of the greens have more contours than Augusta National, and the 18th green features a 4-foot shelf.\n"Your second shots into the greens are quite tricky," Els said. "They are very undulating, and you can't really get the ball to stop on the first bounce. It's a tough course."\nMore daunting than the course is the International team.\nEls has won seven times around the world this year and is inspired by playing before a home crowd in the biggest golf tournament South Africa has seen.\nVijay Singh is playing better than anyone in the world, having just won the PGA Tour money list with four victories and 18 finishes in the top 10. Masters champion Mike Weir skipped the World Cup so he would be fresh for the Presidents Cup.\nPlus, the International team has strong memories of Australia.\n"I'm more excited playing this time around than I've ever been," said Singh, who along with Nick Price has played in all five Presidents Cup matches. "I think we have a very good team. We're capable of beating the Americans, and we're excited about it.\n"Just like Melbourne, first time we went overseas, we won," he said. "And I think we're looking forward to doing the same thing over here again."\nHe shouldn't expect the Americans to roll over this time.\nBut if the International team wins back the Presidents Cup, don't expect any excuses from the Americans. This time, they can't say they didn't care.
SANDWICH, England -- A wacky week at the British Open held one final surprise, and it was the biggest of them all: Ben Curtis holding the claret jug.\nAn unknown PGA Tour rookie in his first major championship, Curtis outlasted Tiger Woods and a collection of All-Stars for perhaps the most stunning conclusion to a Grand Slam event in 90 years.\nDespite four bogeys on the final seven holes, Curtis closed with a 2-under 69 and was the only player under par on the difficult links of Royal St. George's.\nAfter making an 8-foot par putt on the final hole, the 26-year-old from Ohio waited to see if anyone could match him.\nThey all wilted.\nWoods couldn't find the fairway down the stretch and let a perfect opportunity to capture another major fall away. Vijay Singh didn't make enough putts, and Davis Love III ran out of holes.\nThat left the oldest prize in golf, a shiny claret jug, in the possession of a guy who never had so much as a top 10 finish on the PGA Tour.\nHis best was two weeks ago at the Western Open, a tie for 13th that allowed him to qualify for the British Open.\nNo one gave him a chance, not against this lineup.\nNo one played better over four days on these brutal links north of the English Channel.\nCurtis stepped inside a trailer and watched on television as Bjorn hit into the right rough on No. 18 and came up just short of the green. He went to the practice range in case the Dane made the putt to force a playoff.\nThe birdie putt to tie turned away from the cup, and Andrew Sutton, the local caddie whom Curtis hired a week ago, said, "Ben, you're the Open champion."\nCurtis is believed to be the first player since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open to win the first major championship he ever played.\nThere have been other surprises in the majors.\nPaul Lawrie at Carnoustie four years ago when Jean Van de Velde collapsed on the final hole; John Daly winning the '91 PGA Championship as the ninth alternate; Jack Fleck beating Ben Hogan in a playoff in the 1955 U.S. Open at Olympic Club.\nStill, this ranks among the greatest shockers of all.\nOuimet was a 20-year-old who beat the greatest golfers of his time, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in a playoff outside Boston in 1913, a victory that made golf popular in America.\nThis one will give hope to the underdogs.\nBjorn's sloppy finish, especially the bunker shots on No. 16, dropped him to a 72 and into a tie for second with Singh at even-par 284.\nAnother stroke back was Woods, who bogeyed two of his final four holes for a 71, and Love, who missed two crucial birdie putts down the stretch.\n"It's unbelievable," Curtis said. "Honestly, just playing on the weekend would have been fine for me. I just kept trying to play along. You never know what's going to happen."\nWhat happened is that he has his name on the claret jug, alongside the best who ever played.\nCurtis broke down as he tried to thank his family and fiance, then held the silver trophy up toward blazing blue skies over southeastern England as he composed himself.\nCurtis learned the game of golf on a course built in rural Ohio by his grandfather, who died five months ago.\n"He would have loved this. He's there, we just can't see him," Bob Curtis, the winner's father, said from the clubhouse at Millcreek Golf Course in tiny Ostrander.\nBob Curtis is the superintendent at Millcreek and told of finding his 5-year-old son on the putting green in his pajamas.\nUntil this week, Curtis was mostly known for being a two-time Ohio State Amateur champion, along with Arnold Palmer and John Cook.\nNot anymore. He earned more than $1.2 million, is exempt on the PGA Tour for the next five years and was introduced before thousands of stunned fans as the champion golfer of the year.\n"Now, when my name is up on the scoreboard, I will feel like I belong," Curtis said. "This is the grandest tournament of all. I'm very fortunate to be a winner with all the great names on that trophy -- Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones."\nEqually impressive: The guys he beat on a sun-baked afternoon at Royal St. George's, the links that take away more than it gives.\nNo one felt the sting more than Bjorn.\nA short birdie on the par-5 14th gave him a two-stroke lead at 4 under par, with Curtis three groups ahead and leaking oil.\nBjorn found a pot bunker off the tee and made bogey. His tee shot right of the pin on the par-3 16th, the one place not to go, caught the ridge and dropped into the bunker.\nHe blasted out over the lip, but the ball returned down the slope and into the sand. Another blast, same result. Bjorn finally got it out and made double bogey.\n"I certainly feel like I deserve a little bit more than I got this week," Bjorn said. "That's the way it is. You go on. But I'm sure it's going to be tough the next few days."\nWoods is now winless in the last five majors, although this was his best chance.\nDespite missing fairways and greens, he was in great position as Bjorn and Curtis started giving back strokes. It ended when he came up short of the 17th green, ran his chip 12 feet by and missed the par putt.\n"I put myself where I needed to be," Woods said. "I just didn't make the putts."\nSo ended a bizarre week.\nIt started Thursday with Woods losing a ball in the rough on his first tee shot. Bjorn was penalized two shots that day for grounding his club in the bunker after he didn't get out. Love hit a tee shot that was going out of bounds Friday until it caromed off a white stake.\nAnd a guy ranked No. 396 in the world won the British Open.\nEveryone said Royal St. George's was the most unpredictable links in golf. It got a champion no one could have predicted either.