Monday, August 12, 2002

Woods wins the Buick Open

AP Sports Writer

        GRAND BLANC, Mich. — Tiger Woods has won the PGA Championship two ways: by playing the previous week and by practicing and resting. Now he will attempt to win the year's final major off a victory.

        Woods shot a 2-under 70 Sunday to win the Buick Open by four shots at 17 under. It was his 33rd PGA Tour victory and fourth in his last eight starts.

        “You want to feel like you're playing well going into a championship,” Woods said. “And any time you win, you feel good.”

        Although he missed a chance to win the Grand Slam with his 28th-place tie at the British Open three weeks ago, Woods has an opportunity to do something no other golfer has, beginning Thursday at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minn.

        Woods, who won this year's Masters and U.S. Open, will be the first to win three majors in a year twice if he wins the PGA Championship. Ben Hogan did it in 1953 and Woods, who has won seven of the last 12 majors, did it two years ago.

        “That would rank right up there,” said Woods, who was to fly Sunday night to Minnesota. “Hopefully I can add that to my list. It's already been a successful year and I would like to make it even more successful.”

        Esteban Toledo, who began the final round one stroke behind Woods, stayed with the world's best golfer through 12 holes, but then collapsed with three straight bogeys.

        Toledo shot a 1-over 73 to finish at 13 under, tied for second with Mark O'Meara (68), Brian Gay (68) and Fred Funk (71). It matched Toledo's best finish and moved him from 118 to 85 on the money list.

        “I wasn't at nervous at all,” Toledo said. “He's the best player and I tried to put some pressure on him. It just didn't work.”

        Woods insisted he was at Warwick Hills this week to win and not just practice for the PGA. He opened with a 67, shot a season-best 63 on Friday and had a 71 Saturday.

        “I won this tournament two ways. The first two days, I hit the ball great, and in the last two rounds, I made every putt I looked at,” he said. “If I can combine those two things, I'll be in great shape for next week.”

        He won $594,000 to extend his tour-leading total to more than $4.5 million.

        If Woods wins the PGA Championship, he would be the first player to win a major after winning a tournament the previous week since Sandy Lyle won the Greater Greensboro Open and the Masters in 1988.

        Woods is 25-2 in PGA Tour events when leading or tied for the lead after 54 holes. Since 1958, just 16 of 38 players who have at least shared the lead after 54 holes have won the Buick Open.

        Woods and Toledo were essentially engaged in match play while the rest of the field failed to threaten them, until the former professional boxer bogeyed Nos. 13-15.

        On No. 1, a hole he double-bogeyed on Saturday, Woods opened a two-stroke lead with a birdie.

        Toledo got the stroke back with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 4. Woods missed an 8-foot putt to bogey 5 and fall into a tie at 15 under.

        Woods went back ahead by a stroke on No. 6 with a 30-foot birdie putt. The crowd roared when he punched the air — as he has done countless times — with his right fist. Both players birdied No. 7.

        Toledo allowed Woods to go ahead by two strokes when he missed a 5-foot putt at No. 9, but got the shot back with a birdie on the next hole.

        Refusing to let Toledo's confidence grow, Woods put his tee shot a foot from the pin at the par-3 11th, and made the birdie for another two-stroke lead.

        Toledo bounced back with a birdie on 12 to pull within a stroke, but then bogeyed the next hole while Woods birdied.

        “I had to birdie 13, but I pulled it,” Toledo said. “That was the key to the tournament.”

        Toledo also bogeyed 14 and 15 — as Woods parred — to fall five strokes back.

        Woods double-bogeyed 17 to fall to 17 under, but was still three strokes ahead. Toledo bogeyed 18 to fall into a four-way tie, which cost him $138,600.

        Woods is playing the week before a major for the fourth time and all of those tournaments have been the Buick Open, which he won for the first time.

        He said poor health would be the only thing that would prevent him from returning to Warwick Hills next year when the Buick Open moves two weeks before the PGA Championship, switching weeks with The International.

        Phil Mickelson, who will have another chance to win his first major at Hazeltine, had an erratic week. He made 24 birdies, 10 bogeys and three double bogeys to finish in a tie for 29th at 8 under.

        Defending PGA Championship winner David Toms (71) finished tied for 10th at 11 under.


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