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Woods: a masterpiece still in the making

Earl Woods first uttered the words six years ago, when his son was on the verge of losing in the finals of the U.S. Amateur. Between the morning and afternoon rounds, he whispered in his ear, "Let the legend grow."

Earl Woods first uttered the words six years ago, when his son was on the verge of losing in the finals of the U.S. Amateur. Between the morning and afternoon rounds, he whispered in his ear, "Let the legend grow."

These days, the legend of Tiger Woods is on steroids.

"The great thing about Tiger is that he's always, always going to hang in there and come up with a great shot when he needs it," said Grant Waite, who had a front-row seat to Woods' latest heroics on Sunday in the Canadian Open.

This one was no less spectacular, a shot that only Woods dares to try.

Clinging to a one-stroke lead on the par-5 18th at Glen Abbey, he was in a fairway bunker 218 yards from the hole, the final 100 yards (meters) over water. The ball came off crisp and clean, rocketed into the gray sky and dropped 18 feet behind the flag.

"With the tournament on the line, to have the poise and the calm and the confidence to stand there and hit that shot explains basically what Tiger is all about," said Waite, who finished one stroke behind when his 20-foot (six-meter) eagle putt curled off at the end.

"He really doesn't have to say anything. That explains pretty much what kind of a person and a golfer he is," Waite said. "He is very special."

Woods has been that way all year.

It began in Hawaii, the first tournament of the year, with an eagle-birdie-birdie finish to defeat Ernie Els in a playoff. Every week that followed gave Woods another opportunity to outdo himself, and he almost always delivered.

There was that 97-yard (meter) wedge he holed from the fairway, the catalyst to his seven-stroke comeback at Pebble Beach for his sixth straight PGA Tour victory, the longest streak in 52 years. Four months later, he hit a 6-iron from out of thick rough, over a cliff and onto the par-5 sixth green during his 15-stroke romp at Pebble to win the U.S. Open.

He won the career Grand Slam at St. Andrews, and made it three straight majors at the PGA Championship. He has won in the rain at Memorial, in darkness at Firestone.

How does he do it?

"Guys pull off some of the best plays and best shots, best competitive performances, when the pressure is on because that's when they concentrate the hardest," Woods said after winning Sunday.

That's why the legend grows.

Earl Woods was watching the final round from his home in Cypress, California, and admitted to be a little shocked that his son could take the ball right at the flag.

"But it didn't surprise me that he pulled it off," the father said. "He's that good, and he's always been that good. He has this ability to see things with his creative mind, and then he has the physical ability to execute the shot. Some have a creative mind but can't do it. Tiger sees it and he does it. And he does it well. That's the difference."

Such dramatics are not limited to this year.

When his father told him to "let the legend grow," Woods went out and birdied the last three holes of the '94 U.S. Amateur on the TPC at Sawgrass, including an all-or-nothing shot into the island-green 17th for a birdie and a 1-up advantage.

He won his record three straight U.S. Amateur titles by making a 40-foot (12-meter) birdie putt on the next-to-last hole to tie the match against Steve Scott, then beat him in extra holes.

The heroics will cease for the next five weeks. His summer run into history is over. Woods will not return until the Presidents Cup next month, then play the final three PGA Tour events of the year. He is defending champion in all of them.

How much better can he get? How many more times can he win?

How many shots does he have left in the bag?

"What we're doing is witnessing Rembrandt paint, and we're all marveling at him mixing paint and brushing strokes," Earl Woods said. "The more you watch, the more you appreciate his talent. And every week, you see a move with the brush you had never seen before. And the painting starts to come to life, more and more and more.

"It is still unfinished."