AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) Slam or not, Tiger Woods was simply grand.
With a heart-stopper at Augusta National punctuated with a birdie at the end, Tiger Woods claimed the greatest feat in modern golf yesterday by winning The Masters, giving him a clean sweep of the four professional majors in a span of 294 days.
When that 18-foot birdie putt disappeared into the hole, Woods raised both arms in triumph as the massive gallery roared its approval.
He doffed his cap to cover his tears as he left the green and walked into the arms of his father, Earl, who trained him to be a champion, and his mother, Kultida.
“I”ve never had that feeling before,” Woods said. “I finally realized I had no more to play. I”m done.”
Woods closed with a 68, steady down the haunting back nine of Augusta National as David Duval and Phil Mickelson failed to harness the magic that has carried Woods to five of the last six majors.
The only thing left to debate is what to call this remarkable feat. Purists argue that a Grand Slam is accomplished in a calendar year. Woods, emotionally drained after a relentless battle from start to finish, stayed out of the argument.
“I won four,” he said with a coy smile.
Locked in a thrilling battle with his two chief rivals, Woods hit a daring approach from 149 yards into the perilous 11th hole. The ball grazed the cup for a tap-in birdie, giving Woods a lead that he never let go.
Duval, believing this might be his year after three close calls, made it through Amen Corner without a mistake but took bogey on the par-3 16th, firing his tee shot over the green and missing an 8-foot putt for par.
He had two chances to catch Woods, but looked on in shock as birdie putts from 12 feet on the 17th and 5 feet on the final hole failed to fall.
Mickelson, poised to claim his first major, also missed an 8-foot par putt on the 16th hole. He also failed to cash in on birdie putts on the final two holes.
Woods never faltered.
His lead remained at one stroke when he missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the 15th, but he traded spectacular golf for solid play with history on the line and delivered, as he has done from the time he turned pro five short years ago.
“I”ve succeeded in what I wanted to accomplish,” Woods said as he sat in Butler”s cabin waiting for last year”s winner, Vijay Singh, to help him put on another green jacket.
“I don”t feel ecstatic yet. It hasn”t sunk in.”He later took a congratulatory call from President Bush.