Print and Go Back ESPN.com: PGA Championship 2006 [Print without images]

Sunday, August 20, 2006
Updated: August 25, 6:14 PM ET
In easy victory, Woods is still riveting

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Humiliating the famed No. 3 course at Medinah Country Club, site of three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships, wasn't enough. Who didn't put a hurt on Medinah this week?

Beating the strongest field in professional golf by five strokes wasn't enough.

No, with the 88th PGA Championship safely tucked away early Sunday afternoon, Tiger Woods decided to kick history's butt, too.

Tiger Woods and Steve Williams

With a final-round 68, Woods completed 72 holes in 18-under-par 270, seven strokes better than the previous low score in a major at Medinah No. 3. Woods set that record, too, at the 1999 PGA.

In the seven years since, Woods has broken down his swing and rebuilt it. With his second consecutive major championship, Woods re-established his dominance over the sport as strongly as ever.

On Sunday, Woods did it by driving the ball straight (10 of 14 fairways) and making putts. He needed only 27 putts in his final round, thanks to correcting a flaw -- he was taking his putter back slightly hooded -- that he detected Saturday night while watching highlights of his third-round 65.

Everyone who has detected a flaw in their course-record-tying 65, please step forward.

"It was a magical day," Woods said. "I just felt like if I got the ball anywhere on the green, I could make it. It's not too often you get days like that, and I happened to have it on the final round of a major championship."

Someone please send Woods the appropriate script. Golfers are supposed to get the jitters on a major championship Sunday.

Mickelson shot 74 at the PGA on Sunday and finished tied for 16th. Three of the top six golfers entering the final round failed to break par. Woods never wavered. For the 12th time in his career, Woods began the final round of a major with at least a share of the lead. And for the 12th time, Woods won.

In related news, the Coyote once again failed to catch the Road Runner, and the Chicago Cubs will not win the World Series.

"He's so mentally tough there," said Shaun Micheel, whose final-round 69 moved him into second place at 13-under 275. "I'm not sure anything ever bothers him. I wish I had that feeling just once."

Keep in mind, Micheel said this having just concluded his best finish since he won the 2003 PGA.

Could it have been only two months ago, as Phil Mickelson stood on the 18th tee Sunday at the U.S. Open, that the debate raged over whether Tiger Woods needed to make room for Lefty?

Woods' 12th major championship broke the month-long tie he had with Walter Hagen and moved him into sole possession of second place in major championships, six behind Jack Nicklaus. He won his 51st PGA Tour event, which ties him with Billy Casper for sixth on the all-time list.

We need a new debate. Resolved: Tiger Woods is again head, shoulders and swoosh ahead of everyone in the game.

"I think when he won the [2000] U.S. Open, lapping the field [at Pebble Beach], I was pretty impressed," said David Toms, who finished tied for 16th. "Obviously, the way he's played as of late, you have an argument for him being just as good now as he was then."

Tiger towers over all
Think Tiger's hype exceeds his performance? Not so. Incredibly, Woods holds or shares the record for lowest score in relation to par at all four major championships.

Masters -- 18 under par, 1997
U.S. Open -- 12 under par, 2000
British Open -- 19 under par, 2000
PGA Championship -- 18 under par, 2006, 2000 (tied with Bob May)

The air of inevitability settled quickly about the final round. With his round shoulders, slight paunch and easy grin, third-round co-leader Luke Donald walked onto the first tee looking like the next link in the Tiger food chain. Woods strode onto the first tee in typical fashion, shoulders back, muscles straining his shirt, looking as if he should have been in a robe and boxing trunks.

"You would think going to the first tee that he would feel the pressure because everybody is expecting him to win," Chris DiMarco (tied for 12th) said of Woods, "and it's the exact opposite. The guy playing with him feels the most pressure. ... It's the fact that you have to go face-to-face with Tiger, and he's a pretty intimidating guy, no doubt about it."

Woods birdied the first hole to take a lead he never relinquished. When they walked off the sixth green, Woods had birdied his second consecutive hole to go to 17-under. Donald had lipped out his third putt of the day and had fallen four strokes behind.

"Had those went in," Donald said of the lipouts, "it might have been a different story."

Yes, Donald, who finished with a 74 and tied for third at 12-under 276, would have lost by only three strokes instead of six.

When Woods holed a 40-footer at the eighth for a birdie that put him at 18-under, he moved four strokes clear of the field.

On the first three days, when Woods made big putts, he punctuated them with a right jab that would have rattled the fillings of anyone who got in his way. When his putt at the eighth hole fell, Woods looked at the bleachers, quietly raised a fist, then gave a half-jab. Even he knew.

"I just thoroughly enjoy coming down the stretch on the back nine with a chance to win it," Woods said. "That to me is the ultimate rush in our sport."

You might think that the endorphins wouldn't show up when Woods is so far ahead.

You would be wrong.

"It's just even a better feeling," he said, flashing the smile that launched a thousand Buicks, "to know that you're in control at a major championship, and basically, if you just keep playing the way you want to play, you're going to win it. I knew if I was far enough ahead, if I just kept doing what I was doing, the other guys would run out of holes."

As drama goes, the final round of the PGA proved every bit as riveting as C-SPAN. But watching Woods play golf this way is not boring. Watching greatness in any sport is never boring.

"He's not there yet," Woods' swing coach Hank Haney, said Sunday evening. "He's always trying to improve. He won't stop. He leaves no stone unturned in looking for ways to improve."

Finally, a golf topic that might flummox Tiger Woods: How in the world can he improve that performance?

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Ivan.Maisel@espn3.com.