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Woods the champ but Garcia lurking

The Associated Press


Monday, August 16, 1999

MEDINAH, Ill. – Tiger got the trophy. Sergio became a star. And golf got a tough act to follow in the last major championship of the century.

Woods won his second major title Sunday, winning the PGA Championship in an exciting and entertaining duel that provided a tantalizing glimpse of the future of golf.

That Woods belongs to that future cannot be argued, especially after he became the youngest since Seve Ballesteros in 1980 to win a second major title. But so does Sergio Garcia, who won the crowd and a lot more in a wild finish that left the winner looking exhausted well beyond his 23 years.

”He was fiery and he was trying,” Woods said. ”He never dogged it and it was wonderful to see.”

On a day when Woods seemed only to need the back nine for a coronation walk, he and Garcia engaged in a duel that wasn’t settled until Woods safely hit an iron onto the 18th green.

In between, Garcia twirled and whirled. He smashed irons off tree roots and thoroughly charmed the crowd. About the only thing he didn’t do was hoist the Wanamaker Trophy in the end.

That belonged to Woods, who eschewed the theatrics he once loved to display to make a gutsy 8-foot par putt on the 17th hole and stem the tide that almost saw him blow a five-stroke lead over the final seven holes.

”I couldn’t afford to show any emotion because of the way the fans were,” Woods said. ”They were saying some things they shouldn’t have said. And if I would have showed any kind of emotion, they would have got on me pretty good.”

Tigermania, already a fading phenomenon, may have sputtered to an end as the thousands at Medinah Country Club turned against golf’s reigning superstar to cheer on the 19-year-old Spanish sensation who was playing like he was having the time of his young life.

Which was just what Garcia was having as he rolled in a birdie putt on the 13th hole, then looked across a lake and tipped his hat to Woods on the tee box.

”I wanted him to know I was still there,” Garcia said, ”and to show him that he has to finish well to win. I did it with good feelings, not like, make a triple bogey or anything.

”But I was kind of telling him, if you want to win, you have to play well.”

Woods didn’t exactly do that, botching the par-3 with a series of misplayed shots for a double bogey that put Garcia within one shot. But he regrouped and, when he made the 8-footer on No. 17, he had only to make an easy par on the final hole to win.

He did, tapping in for the win, then sighing deeply and closing his eyes in relief.

”A five-shot lead can evaporate pretty quickly,” Woods said. ”I got it back together and I made a wonderful par putt on 17.”

Jay Haas had a 70 and Stewart Cink a 73 to tie for third at 280. Mike Weir, who started the final round tied with Woods, shot an 80 and finished eight strokes back.

Woods, who ran away to a 12-stroke victory in the 1997 Masters, had not won a major since, although he was in the hunt in both the British and U.S. Opens and had an outside shot on the final day in the Masters.

The golfer who Jack Nicklaus predicted would someday win 10 Masters had finally won a major again.

”To finally get No. 2 is definitely a relief, not merely so to get No. 2 but from the media standpoint,” Woods said. ”I don’t have to keep answering the questions anymore.”

This one, though, was quite unlike the first.

Woods entered the final round tied for the lead, not nine strokes ahead of the field as was the case on that Sunday in Augusta. And this time the crowd was not on his side, something nearly unthinkable two years ago.

”I hope you don’t shank it in the water,” one fan yelled as Woods walked to the 17th tee.

”I knew that Sergio as making a run at me, and the crowds were in favor of Sergio and that’s wonderful to see,” Woods said. ”But, unfortunately, they were saying some things they shouldn’t have said.”

Woods had a tough act to follow, with Garcia a group ahead pulling off miracle shots and flinging himself around the course as the crowd chanted his name.

Garcia jumped into the air to see where a wedge landed on 14, then hit recovery shots on the next two holes that would have made Ballesteros proud.

On 15, he hit an iron under one tree and over another just off the green. That simply set up his spectacular shot on 16 when he closed his eyes and hit a 5-iron off tree roots 189 yards onto the green.

Garcia ran after the shot, sprinting across the fairway and leaping into the air as it landed, while the crowd roared its approval..

”It looked like I was American,” Garcia said. ”I almost couldn’t hear at the beginning or at the end of the round. The crowds were amazing.”

As Garcia walked up the 18th hole after hitting a wedge to within 20 feet, the crowd began chanting ”Sergio, Sergio.” He missed the putt, though, and Woods made a routine par that won him a polite roar of approval.

For Woods, the win was vindication of efforts he and instructor Butch Harmon made last year to try and get his game more under control so he would not make the double bogeys that knocked him out of major contention.

His swing is tighter and his misses are better. A mishit may now barely miss a fairway, instead of landing in the trees or water.

”I’ve been trying (to win a major) and unfortunately it hasn’t happened until this week,” Woods said. ”I’ve given myself chances. I’ve come close. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck to go your way.”

Along with a swing that’s more in control, Woods has learned to keep his emotions more in check on the course. Aside from a pump of the fist when he makes a long putt, he rarely changes expression.

That may make him a better golfer, but less of a fan favorite. Just when Woods seems to be turning into an elder statesman, though, along comes Garcia to add some enthusiasm to the game.

He may also add a rivalry, with the two possibly meeting again in the Ryder Cup next month. Garcia’s finish in the PGA ensured him a spot on the European team, even though he just turned pro after the Masters.

”I don’t care,” Garcia said, pausing before correcting himself. ”Well yes, I do care. I like to play with Tiger.”