Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Woods snags his fourth win of the season

AP , LEMONT, ILLINOIS

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the Western Open at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Illinois, on Sunday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Even Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer couldn't match this.

Tiger Woods cruised to victory Sunday in the 100th Western Open, his 38th career victory on the PGA Tour and fourth of the season. It marks his fifth straight year with at least four victories, a feat no one else has managed.

And this is a guy who some say is in a slump?

Hogan, Palmer, Tom Watson and Lloyd Mangrum had four straight years with four or more victories.

The victory also made Woods the fifth three-time winner at the Western, the oldest stop on the PGA Tour. Hogan, Nicklaus and Palmer each won the Western twice.

The gaudy numbers don't stop there. Woods shot a 69 Sunday, giving him 21-under 267 for the tournament. That matches the tournament record set in 2001 by Scott Hoch.

Woods missed an 11-footer on the 18th that would have given him the record on his own. The crowd cheered when he putted out, but he still looked a little subdued.

Woods led the entire tournament, the first wire-to-wire winner at the Western since Nick Price in 1993. It's the fifth wire-to-wire victory in Woods' career.

He finished five strokes ahead of Rich Beem, the 13th time he's won by four strokes or better.

But give Beem credit, he at least added a small diversion to the inevitable. The winner of last year's PGA Championship opened the back nine with three birdies and an eagle in his first five holes to pull within five shots of Woods.

Beem couldn't take advantage of his last par-5, though, ending whatever slim chances he might have had of catching Woods.

Jim Furyk, back in Chicago for the first time since winning the US Open three weeks ago, finished seven shots behind Woods in a three-way tie for third. Mike Weir and defending champion Jerry Kelly also finished at 274.

But, really, what chance did anyone have of catching Woods? This victory was almost a gimme even before he teed off. Of the 31 tournaments he's led after 54 holes, he's won all but two of them. Plus with a six-stroke cushion to start, all he had to do was play it safe, and the victory -- not to mention the US$810,000 paycheck -- was his.

He did better than that, though. The first 11 holes at Cog Hill's Dubsdread course are as birdie friendly as an aviary, and Woods took advantage. He had five birdies and only one bogey through 11, and needed just 13 putts.

Even with his closest rivals so far back they may as well have been on a different round, he didn't let up.

He was clearly irked when he pushed his drive left and into deep rough off the par-4 No. 7. He still had a clear shot at the green, though, and he made a beautiful recovery, putting the ball pin-high on the edge of the green, about 18 feet from the hole.

The ball curled around the edge of the cup and finally dropped in, drawing a fist pump from Woods and cheers from the crowd. He wore a wide grin as he turned around to acknowledge the crowd.

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