Woods relieved to win

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The Independent Online

Whatever happened to Brad Zwetschke? The Illinois native spends his time playing on the mini tours of Florida and elsewhere. But, 11 years ago, Zwetschke was in the final of the US Junior Championship at Bay Hill. He held an early three-up lead but trailed going into the final hole only for his opponent to hook his drive out of bounds. Nevertheless, said opponent rallied to win the play-off.

Whatever happened to Brad Zwetschke? The Illinois native spends his time playing on the mini tours of Florida and elsewhere. But, 11 years ago, Zwetschke was in the final of the US Junior Championship at Bay Hill. He held an early three-up lead but trailed going into the final hole only for his opponent to hook his drive out of bounds. Nevertheless, said opponent rallied to win the play-off.

There are people who remember Zwetschke's place in golfing folklore. "People come up to me out of nowhere and say: 'You the guy who lost to Tiger Woods?' I usually say: 'Well, everybody has lost to Tiger'." How true.

In 1991 Tiger was 15 and became the youngest to win the US Junior. Two years later he became the first player to win three successive US Juniors. Three years after that he was the first to win three successive US Amateurs, and the first to win six successive US national titles.

Little has changed since he turned professional. He has won the Memorial Tournament and the NEC Invitational for the last three years and on Sunday became the first to win three successive titles at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Invitational, and the first to win three different tournaments three years in a row on the US Tour. His win last year here was the first of three in a row, the last of which was the US Masters, which, just to prove he does not do everything by threes, was his fourth successive major win. No one had done that before. By claiming his first win of the year, Woods is on a similar flight path into Augusta as last year. This week he will attempt to become the first defending champion to win the Players Championship back-to-back.

"It's a great feeling to do this at Arnie's tournament," Woods said of his Bay Hill three-peat. With his 30th US Tour win, Woods edged ahead of Jack Nicklaus as the player with the most wins under 30. He is still only 26. "That's a nice bi-product of a lot of hard work." But Tiger's overwhelming feeling as he made the short journey home was one of relief. He secured a four-stroke win over Michael Campbell with four birdies and no bogeys over the last 10 holes, but the eventual margin of victory was misleading as he trailed until the last six holes.

"I knew how difficult the course was playing with the greens so firm and the pins not easy to get at," he said. "I tried to take my birdie chances when they came but most of all, not make a bogey on the back nine. I was prepared to make a physical mistake but did not want to make a mental mistake." Perhaps only Woods treated the event like a major. "You had to plot your way around. Some of these holes bate you into being aggressive." Phil Mickelson, one of the most aggressive players around, was in the lead until he bogeyed three of the last five holes. He went for the pin at the short 14th and ended up over the green and attempted to find the green from the trees at the par-five 16th but only hit water.

Campbell took advantage of Mickelson's demise and chipped in at the last to secure second place on his own. Lifting himself out of a five-way tie for second improved his bank balance by $130,000 (£91,500). His runners-up cheque for $300,000 (£211,000) gives the Kiwi playing rights on the US Tour but he is not about to quit Europe.

"I don't know what I'll do yet," said the Brighton resident. "I enjoy playing on both tours. I enjoy the camaraderie in Europe but the place to play against the best is here. But I consider myself a world player, like Ernie Els. I don't see why I can't do the same as he does."

Campbell added: "This week is way up there with my wins in Australia and Europe. All the top players were here, so it is a huge confidence booster for me."

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