Tears and a Tiger hug: this one's for Pop wrapped in Green Jacket of love

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The Independent Online

For a natural-born winner such as Tiger Woods, popularity has always been in the recesses of a one-track mind, but the tearful performance he gave here after winning his first major in three years yanked at America's heartstrings so violently that not even Phil Mickelson will be wrestling them back.

For a natural-born winner such as Tiger Woods, popularity has always been in the recesses of a one-track mind, but the tearful performance he gave here after winning his first major in three years yanked at America's heartstrings so violently that not even Phil Mickelson will be wrestling them back.

"This one's for you, Pop," the 29-year-old said, turning his streaming eyes to Camera Four after his epic first extra-hole win over Chris DiMarco. "I just want to dedicate this to my Dad. He's having a hard time. He's here in Augusta but wasn't healthy enough to come to the course. Whenever I've won before, Dad's been here, but today he wasn't here. All I want to do now is go back and give him a huge bear hug."

Call it a "Tiger Hug". Earl Woods probably does, the 73-year-old who is battling cancer. Rarely has a son been as influenced by a father and it should not be underestimated how determined Tiger was to give his mentor "something to fight for" as prostate cancer spreads through his body, at one point forming a tumour behind his left eye.

"My eye was literally pushed out of the socket," Woods Snr said. "When I first told Tiger, he was very quiet. And he looked at me and said, 'Pop, when I was a little kid, you promised me you were going to be here until 84. I'm going to hold you to it.' And I said, 'You've got it. I'll be here'."

Tiger learnt how to do it on his own on a quite extraordinary Sunday as he won his fourth Masters, lost it and then won it again. DiMarco, written off as a "journeyman" but clearly so much more, pushed him every agonising yard down a momentous stretch as Woods chucked away a two-shot advantage over the final two holes. "I was kind of throwing up on those last couple," Woods admitted, "and then I snuck one out in the play-off."

Indeed, there might not have even been that play-off, or that decisive 15-foot birdie, and the Masters might have sensationally been welcoming its third first-time winner in succession, if DiMarco's chip had dropped on the 18th as seemed certain.

"That had every right to go in," the 36-year-old said, as he juggled the emotions of becoming only the third player in history to lose back-to-back majors in play-offs after being denied by Vijay Singh in last August's USPGA. "In fact, I don't know how it didn't go in. Go back to the two really big points of the day, it was him holing on 16 and my lip-out."

One will be replayed for ever, the other conveniently forgotten, as Augusta 2005 is remembered as "The One Where Tiger Chipped In". And that is understandable, as it was nothing short of incredible; Woods off the back of the green, a good 40 feet away, pitching away from the hole into the slope and allowing the break to track its way down. "One of the best shots I've ever hit," Woods said.

DiMarco was wounded, but, as he kept proving after seeing a four-shot lead disappear in 26 minutes of the morning's third round, never mortally so.

"You expect the unexpected. But unfortunately it's not unexpected when he's doing it," said the New Yorker. "But hey, 12 under is usually good enough to win. I was just playing against Tiger Woods."

An indication of their supremacy was the seven shots that separated the pair from the next finishers. Few bothered looking back that far, although Britain and, yes, Europe should. It may be 22 majors now since Europe's last winner, but Luke Donald's tie with Retief Goosen at his first Masters - the eighth best debut in the tournament's history - signalled an obvious candidate to fill this void.

"I'll be back next year with confidence high," said the 27-year-old whose earnings for his last two events - after finishing second at The Players Championship - top £600,000. "If we get good weather then this place suits me. My motto was, 'Never give up.' I chipped in at the 11th, and again at 15 and on 16 must have been close to a one."

But the only "one" America was talking about was Mr Eldrick Woods. And suddenly "The Fab Four" was simply the number of Green Jackets in Eldrick's wardrobe.

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