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Tiger Woods there is no Stopping the man


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Time only thing standing between Tiger and Jack


By NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer

August 21, 2006


MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) -- 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.


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.






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