Holed up

Woods dominates field at the Memorial

Posted: Tuesday, May 30, 2000

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods broke new ground Monday in the Memorial.

Along with successfully defending a title for the first time in 10 tries, and becoming the first repeat champion in the 25-year history of the Memorial, Woods managed to win with hardly any fist pumps and even fewer dramatics.

Not that it mattered. And not that he didn't try.

Playing the kind of golf that has left even tournament host Jack Nicklaus shaking his head, Woods cruised to his 19th PGA Tour victory with a 2-under 70 to win the rain-delayed Memorial by five shots, at 269.

''I needed to shoot a good front nine to increase my lead and make sure the guys didn't have a chance,'' said Woods, who made three birdies inside 4 feet on the front.

Ernie Els and Justin Leonard wound up tied for first in the B-Flight.

Els got to within four strokes before his lone bogey in a round of 7-under 65. Leonard holed a lob wedge from 81 yards for eagle on No. 5 in his round of 68, giving him his best finish since a tie for third in the Canadian Open last September.

''This is like tying for first in the other tournament going on,'' Leonard said.

Said Els: ''If it wasn't for Tiger, I'd be in good position.''

But Woods made his tee time, and the rest of a cool, gray day at Muirfield Village quickly lost its suspense. The only question was the margin of victory.

Woods, who began the final round with a six-stroke lead, squandered a chance to break Tom Lehman's tournament scoring record by failing to make birdie on any of the par 5s.

Needing a par on the 18th to tie Lehman's mark of 268, Woods blasted a 7-iron from 156 yards so far over the 18th green that it bounced off the cart path and went 20 yards up the hill, finishing closer to the clubhouse than the green. He wound up with a bogey.

''That was one of the worst shots I've ever seen,'' Woods said. ''I've played in many pro-ams, but wow! I definitely need some work.''

Others might beg to differ.

Woods won for the 11th time in his last 20 tour events, and has finished out of the top 10 just twice in his last 25 tournaments around the world. He joined Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw with 19 career victories on the PGA Tour.

Woods finished at 269 and won $558,000, giving him more than $4.1 million this year -- already the second highest in PGA Tour history behind his '99 season -- and making him the first player to go over $15 million in career earnings.

''In his own mind, he can get better,'' Els said. ''In everyone else's mind, he's as good as we want him to play.''

Mike Weir had a 69 to finish fourth at 276, boosting his bid to become the first Canadian to make the Presidents Cup team. Steve Lowery, paired with Woods and trying to make up six shots, instead had a 73 and was at 278 along with Paul Azinger (66) and Steve Flesch (70), who earned enough money to qualify for the British Open.

That's about what the final round amounted to -- consolation prizes.

Woods won for the fourth time this year, giving him 12 victories over the past two seasons, with the second half of 2000 still to come. The last player to win this much was Nicklaus, who had 14 victories in the 1972 and '73 seasons.

Nicklaus tried to make Muirfield Village tougher this year, with thicker rough and smaller greens with new contours. Those changes were offset by soft, still conditions the last three rounds -- and by Woods.

''He's just making mincemeat out of golf courses,'' Nicklaus said Monday morning after finishing his 25th Memorial at 5-over. ''Every time you turn around, it's 63, 64. Guys in the locker room were saying, 'Jack, this golf course is not that easy.' He's making it look easy.''

The final round was about as easy as it comes. The closest anyone came to Woods was when Els birdied the 15th get to 15 under, and Woods made his only bogey at the 13th to drop to 19 under.

But Woods answered with a birdie on his next hole, Els bogeyed the par-3 16th and order was restored.

Not that anybody was holding their breath.

Woods is now 17-2 worldwide in tournaments where he has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and the six-stroke advantage at the start of the final round was his largest since his nine-stroke lead in the 1997 Masters.

For the second year in a row, Woods will go into the U.S. Open on a winning note. He made a gallant bid to win at Pinehurst No. 2 last year, missing a short putt on the 17th, and wound up two strokes behind Payne Stewart.

Woods said he might attend a few games in the NBA Finals if his beloved Lakers can finish off Portland. Otherwise, he'll be aiming for Pebble Beach, where he won on another cool, gray Monday by making up seven shots over the last seven holes.

This was nowhere near as dramatic, but it counts as a victory just the same.

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