Emotional Tiger Woods Captures British Open
By Chuck Culpepper
5:37 PM PDT, July 23, 2006
HOYLAKE, England -- Tiger Woods had garnished the closing putts of his first 10 major titles with fist pumps, air punches, beaming grins, serial embraces and minor tears, but his 11th came today with an unprecedented heaving sob.
The sob gently shook the right shoulder of caddie Steve Williams as the two men hugged on the 18th green and a packed Royal Liverpool audience cheered Woods' first major title since the death in May of Earl Woods, his father and golf mentor throughout his childhood in Cypress.
As the first repeat British Open champion since Tom Watson in 1983 turned from Williams to walk off, a face the world has come to know had a distraught look the world had not yet seen. Woods would return to the green moments later to receive his third Claret Jug and calmly tell the galleries of his father, "I wish he could have seen this one last time."
Only Walter Hagen's 1929 British Open at Muirfield and Jack Nicklaus' 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach had seen a man stockpile an 11th title from the four tournaments most cherished in golf. Today, the 135th British Open became the third, bringing Woods, 30, into a second-place tie with Hagen, with only Nicklaus' 18 major championships sitting out front.
Woods' 11th both resembled and departed from his first 10.
For semblance, he located new Sunday gears for the rebuffing of challenges, particularly on the back nine when runner-up Chris DiMarco lurked within one shot. He decorated his final-round 67 that tied for the day's best score with trademark nerve; Woods made birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16 that enabled him to best DiMarco by two shots.
He managed to drain both suspense and the confidence of others, with playing partner Sergio Garcia vanishing hurriedly (despite canary-yellow clothing) with a front-nine 39 and 2002 British Open champion Ernie Els an also-ran with a 71.
For departure, he played the course uncharacteristically and reacted so emotionally.
He played Royal Liverpool's 7,258 yards of links using the driver that once defined him only one -- that on Thursday on No. 16. Craftily, conservatively, he hit 3-irons, 4-irons, 3-woods and even a club almost nobody uses -- the 2-iron -- with such precision that his coach, Hank Haney, reckoned he strayed only thrice all week.
He restrained the macho bomber within to finish No. 1 in fairways hit at 86% and No. 2 in greens hit at 81%. And he sobbed on the 18th green, a reaction that did intertwine with his approach.
"He would have been very proud," Woods said of his father. "Very proud. He was always on my case about thinking my way around the golf course and not letting emotions get the better of you, because it's so very easy to do in this sport. And just use your mind to plot your way around the golf course and if you had to deviate from the game plan make sure that is the right decision to do that.
"He was very adamant that I play like that my entire playing career."