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Tiger's win spurs talk of another run

By BOB HARIG
Published April 14, 2005


Tiger Woods ' Masters victory on Sunday was in many ways like the PGA Championship title he claimed in 1999 at Medinah.

Both came after 10-major droughts. Both came against gritty, major-less competitors. Both came despite some big flaws in Woods' game.

The Medinah major served as a springboard to the greatest run in golf history. It was first of seven victories in 11 major championships that had golf fans wondering when, not if, Woods would catch Jack Nicklaus ' record of 18.

But until Sunday, Woods had not won a major since the 2002 U.S. Open. Ten majors went by without a victory. Swing changes ensued. Woods was criticized. And yet despite those two shaky finishing holes at Augusta National that turned what looked like a sure victory into a nail-biter, Woods survived.

In 1999 at the PGA, Woods had also gone 10 majors without winning. He had endured an overhaul of his swing after the 1997 Masters and won just once in 1998. He had a five-shot lead on the back nine, only to see it melt away while a teenager named Sergio Garcia challenged. Woods finally prevailed, but it was not easy.

On Sunday, Woods had a four-stroke lead over Chris DiMarco , but could not put him away. He needed a birdie in sudden death to finally win.

The similarities are amazing, so ... is Woods headed for another major run?

"Well, any time you make changes in your game," said Woods, "it's not going to be an immediate success. And did I probably take a step back? Yeah. Probably did in '98, too - end of '97, all of '98 and the beginning of '99 - almost two years where I didn't really do anything in the game of golf.

"Then again, once those changes kicked in, I had a pretty good run, won 17 times on tour."

Woods was not predicting it would happen again, but he has maintained that the work he has done with instructor Hank Haney would pay off.

He did win two unofficial events at the end of last year, after winning just once on the PGA Tour. He added two victories earlier this year and now has three so far.

Next up is the U.S. Open, where Woods tied for third in 1999 amid those previous swing changes. Then comes the British Open at St. Andrews, where Woods was nearly flawless in winning his second straight major in 2000 and third of four (he would go on to win the next two, also).

An awakening?

"I hope not," DiMarco joked. "He's fine. He's awake. He's won three or four times this year already."

JACK'S PATTERN: Jack Nicklaus won seven major championships between 1962 and 1967, then went 0-for-12 between the 1967 U.S. Open and the 1970 British Open. Woods won eight majors between 1997 and 2002, then went 10 without a victory until Sunday. But he put it in perspective.

"Ten majors is not so long," Woods said. "Some guys go 0-for-life."

DRIVER WOES: DiMarco had some problems on the eighth hole Sunday, and the CBS analysts came up with all kinds of reasons. He was upset at the way Woods reacted to a poor tee shot. He had too many clubs in his bag.

Turns out, the head came loose on DiMarco's driver, so he summoned Masters officials to retrieve a different one from his locker. As long as the club is not damaged in anger, it can be replaced.

"Thankfully I had another one with me," DiMarco said. "Normally I don't have one. I actually put the one I was using for the first three-and-half rounds in play on Wednesday, so it was musical drivers up until (then). I had about four or five in my locker."

AROUND GOLF: The Chrysler Championship got another assist from the NFL schedule makers, who have the Bucs playing at San Francisco on Oct.30, the date of the final round of the PGA Tour event at Innisbrook. Last year, the Bucs had an open date on tournament weekend. ... DiMarco jumped from 15th to seventh in this week's Official World Golf Ranking, the first time he has cracked the top 10. ... England's Luke Donald , who tied for third, moved from 16th to 13th. Other than Woods and Vijay Singh trading the top two places, the others in the top six - Ernie Els , Phil Mickelson , Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington - remained the same. ... Woods is not expected to return to the PGA Tour until the Wachovia Championship in early May. ... After a two-week break, the LPGA Tour resumes its schedule at the Takefuji Classic in Las Vegas, followed by a tournament in Mexico next week. ... Annika Sorenstam , who has won five straight over two seasons, is not playing this week and is not expected next week. She might not resume her schedule until the Michelob Ultra Open, May 5-8.