August 21, 2006


Woods runs off with 12th major


The Associated Press
Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the 88th PGA Championship golf tournament at Medinah Country Club Sunday. It was the 12th victory in a major for Woods.

AP National Writer

MEDINAH, Ill. — No one is standing between Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus now.
All that separates golf’s two greatest players is a half-dozen majors. And at the rate Woods is going, those six titles aren’t going to keep him at bay for long.
“It’s still a long way away. It’s not something I could get next year,” Woods insisted. “It took Jack over 20 years to get his. It’s going to take a career, and I’ve just got to keep plugging along and keep trying to win these things.”
He seems to have the hang of it so far. Woods closed with a 4-under 68 for a five-shot victory in the PGA Championship on Sunday, winning his 12th career major. Only Nicklaus, with 18, has more.
The numbers keep coming.
Woods has won four of the last eight majors, and is the first player in history to go consecutive years winning at least two majors. It was his third PGA Championship, two shy of the record Nicklaus shares with Walter Hagen, and his 18-under 270 matched his scoring record in relation to par.
He also became the first player to win the PGA Championship twice on the same course, matching the title he won here in 1999.
“It’s really remarkable what he does,” marveled Steve Stricker. “That’s just hard to believe, in our day and age, with all of the good players. He’s that much better than everybody else.”
This was what Woods dreamed of all those years ago, when he taped a list of Nicklaus’ records up on his bedroom wall. The boy wanted to be the best, and Nicklaus was his gold standard.
Now 30, with a wife and the maturity that comes with life’s harshest tests, Nicklaus and his once-unbeatable records are still what drive him.
“I just thoroughly enjoy coming down the stretch on the back nine with a chance to win it,” Woods said. “That’s why I practice as hard as I do. It’s what I live for. That, to me, is the ultimate rush in our sport.”
While the Golden Bear needed 25 years to pile up all of his titles, Woods has taken just 10 years to win his. Unless someone steps up — or someone new steps in — it won’t be long before Woods reaches Nicklaus’ 18 and blows right on by.
Woods was tied for the lead going into the final round, and everyone knows what that means. Still, there were nine players within six strokes of him, four of whom were major champions. Someone, any one of them, should have been able to make some sort of run at Woods.
Instead it ended as it always does when Woods is in command: He got on a roll and everyone else rolled over.
Woods threw down the initial challenge, hitting 7-iron to 10 feet on the first hole. He kept his head so still over the birdie putt that he didn’t look up until it was inches from the cup, and the game was on.
More like the game was over. Woods had four birdies in the first eight holes, three which came on 40-foot putts.
He’s 12-0 in the majors when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
“He’s just better than us,” U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said. “Someone has to be the best, why not him?”
Shaun Micheel (69) finished second, but never got within five shots of Woods after the fourth hole. Third-round co-leader Luke Donald had Woods’ red shirt, but nothing that looked like his game.
The Brit-turned-Chicagoan didn’t make a single birdie and was out of the running after the fourth hole, when he made his first bogey in 40 holes. Donald’s tee shot landed in a muddy divot, and his putt to save par lipped out. He finished at 74 in a tie for third at 12-under 276 with Adam Scott (67) and Sergio Garcia (70).
Mike Weir looked as if he was going to apply some pressure, closing within a stroke at No. 5. But he tailed off and finished sixth. Ogilvy, Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco and David Toms never even came close.
Woods was so dominant he had only three bogeys the entire week, including one Sunday on the par-3 17th hole over Lake Kadijah when his only concern was finishing. But that only cost him the scoring record in relation to par. He settled for 18 under, the same score he and Bob May posted at Valhalla in 2000.
“When he quits, he’s not going to be No. 1. That’s the way it’s going to be,” DiMarco said, adding, “I have no problem admitting he’s a better player than me.”
It wasn’t long ago that people were wondering what was wrong with Woods. Mickelson had won two straight majors, and Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open after the death of his father, Earl.
But Woods reasserted his dominance with a cathartic victory at the British Open. After claiming his third silver claret jug, he sobbed on his caddie’s shoulder while remembering his father.
A month later, the tears were gone. It was a sun-splashed afternoon at Medinah Country Club, and Woods had the smile to match.
After tapping in for par, he fished the ball out of the cup, put it in his pocket and raised both fists. The grin began spreading across his face as he shook hands with caddie Steve Williams, their clasp turning into a bearhug, and it stayed etched on his face for the next hour.
When he hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy aloft to the cheers of the fans, the polished silver reflected his beaming gaze. And when he spoke briefly of his father, it was with love, not sorrow.
“I feel,” he said, “like things are pretty darn good right now.”
That’s the last thing his challengers needed to hear.
There are seven months until the Masters, time to hit the driving range, putting green or wherever else they need to go to try and catch Woods. Whether it will be enough or not is anybody’s guess.
“It will happen eventually,” Garcia said. “He’s not going to be 68 years old and in the final round of a major and tied for the lead and he wins. It’s going to happen eventually.”
By that time, though, Nicklaus’ record might very well be history.



Red Sox getting snuffed... again!

AP Sports Writer

BOSTON — Twenty-eight years after the “Boston Massacre” set the stage for Bucky Dent and yet another Yankees championship, New York is snuffing out the Red Sox once again.
Changing the style — but not the outcome — of an epic series that’s propelled them to a 5 1/2-game lead in the AL East, the Yankees beat Boston for the fourth consecutive time on Sunday night, coming back with two homers and five RBIs from Jason Giambi to win 8-5 in 10 innings.
“This could have been the most incredible of them all,” New York manager Joe Torre said. “This ballclub just won’t be denied.”
Giambi led off the 10th with his second homer and Jorge Posada added a two-run shot for the Yankees, who have beaten Boston in the first four games of the five-game series and turned a 3 1/2-game deficit into a 5 1/2-game lead in just one month. A victory today would top the 1978 series known as the “Boston Massacre” — a four-game September sweep that erased the remnants of Boston’s 14-game lead on the Yankees.
“It’s not fair. Those guys are not playing around,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said. “It’s bad, but things can change. We’ve got five weeks to play and we have time to fix this up.”
After pounding the Red Sox for 39 runs in the first three games, the Yankees sat back against Curt Schilling and pounced on the Boston bullpen. New York trailed 5-3 after seven and 5-4 after eight before sending it into extras when Melky Cabrera doubled to lead off the ninth and scored on Derek Jeter’s two-out flare to right.
Ortiz hit his major league-leading 44th homer in the fourth and doubled off Mariano Rivera (5-5) to lead off the ninth. Boston loaded the bases with one out, but Rivera pitched out of it and then added a scoreless 10th, getting Ortiz to fly out meekly to right to end the game.
Craig Hansen (1-1) gave up three runs and three hits while striking out two for Boston.
“It might have been the greatest four games I played in my career,” Giambi said. “Both teams are going back and forth like prize fighters. It’s like whoever gets the best at bat.”
Schilling stopped the Yankees’ offensive onslaught, overcoming a 57-minute rain delay to last seven innings and leave with a 5-3 lead. But Mike Timlin and Javier Lopez loaded the bases, and by the time Jonathan Papelbon pitched out of it, Giambi had brought the Yankees within one.
Papelbon struck out Robinson Cano and, with the remnants of the sellout crowd standing and cheering, he fanned Posada to end the eighth. The rookie right-hander bounded off the mound, pumping his fist in celebration.
But Cabrera doubled to lead off the ninth and took third on a wild pitch. Bernie Williams, pinch-hitting, struck out, and then former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, who was 9-for-18 in the first three games of the series, struck out on three pitches.
Jeter looped a flare in front of right fielder Gabe Kapler to tie it.
Mike Mussina left because of tightness in his groin after four innings and just 62 pitches with the scored tied 3-3; he is winless in four starts since July 30.
Notes: ESPN reporter Bonnie Bernstein sought refuge from the rain in the Red Sox dugout to file her in-game reports. Team officials asked her to leave when the rain stopped. ... Boston LF Manny Ramirez was 2-for-2 with three walks, two intentional. ... Schilling struck out seven to move eight shy of the 3,000-strikeout milestone. ... Rodriguez was in the lineup at designated hitter on Sunday and Jeter was scheduled to DH today. ... Ramirez doubled in the first for his ninth consecutive 100-RBI season, most of any active player.
PAVANO REHAB: Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano allowed one earned run in four innings for Double-A Trenton in a minor league rehab start Sunday.
Pavano had surgery in May for a bone chip above his right elbow and hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 27, 2005.