Tiger Wins Again
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Just when you think Tiger Woods is toast, he pulls another miracle out of his golf bag. His legend - and streak - continues to grow.
The 24-year-old superstar crafted an amazing comeback Monday, erasing rookie Matt Gogel's seven-stroke lead with seven holes left to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
''Fans should embrace this,'' Gogel said. ''It's simply amazing. It's like what Michael Jordan did in basketball. Tiger is transcending the game.''
Within an hour of the victory, media credentials doubled to 100 for this week's Tour stop, the Buick Invitational at La Jolla, Calif., where Woods is the defending champion. Ticket sales already had doubled to see if Woods could repeat. Last year, he needed a 62 on Saturday and a 65 Sunday to claim victory.
Tiger and the trophy: Woods holds up his prize after winning the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tourney (AP).
Monday, Woods sank a 4-foot birdie putt at the final hole for an 8-under-par 64 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, beating Gogel and Vijay Singh by two strokes.
He finished with a winning total of 15-under 273 after starting the day five strokes behind co-leaders Gogel and Mark Brooks.
It was Woods' sixth consecutive PGA Tour victory, equaling the second-longest streak in PGA Tour history set by Ben Hogan in 1948.
''Tiger's golf is just scratching the surface,'' Fred Couples said. ''He has a lot on his shoulders. To do what he's done is remarkable.''
The gallery at No. 18 roared its approval as Woods sank his final putt, pumped his right fist and put the pressure on Gogel, who was playing three groups behind.
Gogel came to the 18th green needing to sink a 12-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. The putt slid past the hole. He missed again, settling for 1-under 71 and a 275 total.
Afterward, Woods told Gogel, ''You have a lot to be proud of.''
Woods has maintained his streak should be two, not six, because the wins have come in different calendar years. Nelson doesn't agree, and neither does the PGA Tour.
''I'm actually more proud of the fact I've won eight out of nine in the same stretch,'' said Woods, who has 17 career PGA Tour wins. ''The only tournaments I didn't win in the same stretch was Taiwan. I won at Malaysia playing pretty good there, then won the Grand Slam.''
Watching Woods work is liking watching a magician pull a rabbit out of his hat.
Woods holed a 97-yard wedge shot at No. 15 for eagle when the ball bounced about 5 feet right of the pin and spun sideways into the hole. He went from 11 under to 13 under with that one swing.
''It was one of those things where you are trying to get it close and leave yourself a putt at birdie,'' said Woods, who earned $720,000, one of the PGA Tour's biggest paydays. ''It just happened to go in.''
Said Gogel: ''Tiger hits the great shots at the right time.''
Woods missed a birdie opportunity at No. 14.
''After not capitalizing on a wonderful opportunity on 14, I figured I do need to birdie the last four holes,'' he said. ''I didn't do that, but I still played it in 4 under.
''If I didn't win, I was definitely going to try and make it difficult for him to win.''
Nelson, 88, took in the spectacular show on television at his Fairway Ranch in Roanoke, Texas. He picked up Tiger at No. 14.
''When Tiger gets going, he can almost hole the ball from anywhere,'' Nelson said. ''In every round of golf, you have one shot that turns you on or off. That eagle was the one shot that started to turn him around.''
Gogel said he wasn't aware Woods made eagle until he reached the 18th tee, where Gogel trailed by one stroke.
Battling the conditions
The tournament is played over three courses, Pebble Beach, Poppy Hills Golf Club and Spyglass Hill Golf Club, all on the picturesque Monterey Peninsula.
The first round was rain-delayed until Friday, forcing postponement of the final round until Monday.
Finish renews rookie Gogel's determination to win
From wire reports
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- For Matt Gogel, it would be hard to call Monday's loss in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am a collapse. Not when you're being chased down by arguably the greatest closer in golf history.
However, when Gogel looks back on this tournament, he'll probably lament the one that got away.
"I have no doubt that I am good enough, but until you get that first one, you are always going to wonder when it will come. So I'll do the exact thing next time and, hopefully, get back in position to win the golf tournament," said Gogel, who turns 29 Wednesday.
The victory certainly was special for Woods, but it would have been no less so for Gogel, who is in his first year on the PGA Tour.
He's been a pro since 1994. He earned $180,173 last season on the Nike Tour (now called the Buy.com Tour). He finished tied for seventh two weeks ago at the Bob Hope Classic.
Gogel entered the final round tied for the lead and five strokes up on Woods. Gogel shot three consecutive rounds in the 60s and had a 31 on the front nine Monday before he fell apart on the final nine holes.
"The back nine here, I think, is just one of the toughest nine holes," said Gogel, from Overland Park, Kan. "It doesn't look like it on the scorecard, but the greens are slanted and tight and you have to hit balls in the right spot."
Gogel had a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have forced a playoff. He missed it, then missed the 3-footer.
When Gogel parred No. 10, his victory looked certain. He had a five-stroke lead on Vijay Singh, and Woods was just beginning to climb the leaderboard.
"I was amazed," said Gogel, who earned $352,000 for his tie for second place with Singh. "I will not be amazed anymore."
Woods fired 68-73-68 the first three rounds, which were played despite rain, strong winds and fog at one time or another. He believed his best chance Monday would come in bad weather, so he could use his considerable skills to record a few birdies while others faltered.
The sky was overcast, but there were no delays because of bad weather.
''I figured with my finish in '97 (tied for second), it's just a matter of time before I would win here,'' he said. ''I like the area, I like the golf courses, the layout. It sets up very well for my game.''
Woods said he first played Pebble Beach with his father, Earl, when he was 12.
That round was at this time of the year, and they played in the rain and wind.
Woods, a former star at Stanford, two hours north of Pebble Beach in Palo Alto, played Pebble some in college but not a lot. ''I came down here once in a while,'' he said. ''I ended up playing more at Spyglass than I did here. It cost too much to play here.''
He doesn't have to worry about money anymore. The big check boosts Woods' official money this year to a PGA Tour-leading $1,242,000. It increases his career earnings to $12,035,128 since joining the Tour in 1996, second all-time to Davis Love III ($12,588,647).
Wondruous to all
Woods' amateur partner was Jerry Chang, a former Stanford teammate, who has seen Woods do some amazing things.
''You never get tired of it,'' Chang said. ''It was awesome. I just tried to stay out of his way and have fun.''
Woods and Chang finished second in the pro-am portion of the tournament, giving Woods another $7,500.
Despite what was at stake at No. 18, Woods took time to help Chang line up his putt. The gesture wasn't lost on Peter Ueberroth, another member of the foursome, who was Jim Furyk's playing partner.
''You saw one of the great sportsmen of all time,'' Ueberroth said. ''He'd line up putts and give yardages like it was a day with his buddies. He was the same even when he cranked it up.''
Woods played the front nine in 3-under 33, then shot lights-out on the back nine.
''He started lasering every single pin,'' said Ueberroth, a part owner of Pebble Beach Company.
''His eagle at No. 15 changed the dynamics of everything.''
Furyk noted that Woods brings a somewhat different crowd to golf. ''It's more boisterous and into it. Tiger might have a younger crowd that wasn't interested before.''
As Woods chases Nelson's record, he'll have no bigger booster than the man who scripted ''The Streak'' in 1945.
''He might do 15 in a row, and that would be fine with me,'' Nelson said. ''I love watching him. He's an amazing player.''