Woods triumphs in majestic duel with May

USPGA Championship: World No 1's play-off victory makes him only the second player in history to win three majors in a year

As fine, historic and magnificent as his ceremonial victories were at the US Open and the Open Championship, golf is meant to be a competitive game and that is the way Tiger Woods prefers it. There must be something about the USPGA Championship for the world No 1. A year ago at Medinah, Woods survived a late charge by Sergio Garcia to win by one shot.

As fine, historic and magnificent as his ceremonial victories were at the US Open and the Open Championship, golf is meant to be a competitive game and that is the way Tiger Woods prefers it. There must be something about the USPGA Championship for the world No 1. A year ago at Medinah, Woods survived a late charge by Sergio Garcia to win by one shot.

At Valhalla on Sunday, Woods trailed for much of the day before forcing a three-hole play-off with Bob May, which he won by a single stroke. The victory brought more entries in the history books. He became only the second player after Ben Hogan to win three majors in a year and the first for 63 years to hold up the Wanamaker Trophy two years running.

"Winning three majors in a year is very special," Woods, 24, said. "To have your game peak at the right times is what you are trying to do but it is great for it to actually happen. Except for the first round of the Masters, I've played pretty well in the majors." His opening 75 at Augusta, which included a triple-bogey and a double, was the only time he was over par in his 16 rounds in the majors this season; 12 of them were under 70. In 1953 Hogan never had the chance to win four out of four as the USPGA clashed with the Open at Carnoustie. Woods was fifth in the Masters and next year he will arrive with the possibility of winning four in a row, a grand slam of sorts, if not in the same calendar year.

"All I'll be doing is trying to win another major," Woods said. "I've got one Green Jacket. I'd like another." He has now won five majors, the last four coming in five appearances, which, naturally enough, is a new first for the game.

May, who has not won in the States but honed his game on the European Tour, could look back on a sterling performance in which he did not back off against the best player in the world.

He scored three successive rounds of 66 as he and Woods set a new scoring record for the USPGA of 18 under par. And over 21 holes he dropped only one stroke, and none after the sixth hole. "If you shoot three 66s in a major, you should win," May said.

"But I was playing against the best player in the world and he proved that was not good enough. I don't feel disappointed, I just came up a little short. I have proved to a lot of people I can play under the heat. We can't say yet he is the best golfer ever to play. It wouldn't be fair to a lot of other players who have gone before him. But, when he is done, he may be the best player and I went head-to-head with him and only lost in a play-off." Seven years the senior, it was May's records that Woods chased when playing junior golf in southern California. May was determined not to be intimidated and gave Woods a scare. "This was one of the best golfing duels of my life," Woods said. "Hats off to Bob, he played wonderfully.

"It was a memorable battle and is probably my most exciting win from a playing standpoint. Neither of us backed off. We were matching each other birdie for birdie. Usually in majors you can cruise in with pars but that wasn't the case today.

"At Pebble Beach, as long as my heart didn't stop beating, I'd win. Here, I had to keep executing golf shots. I didn't really get caught up in the drama because I was so focused on what I was doing."

Woods is good when he is in front - he has lost only twice in more than 20 occasions when he has led after 54 holes - but he is even better when he is behind. After six holes, Woods was two over for the day and two behind. He then played the next 13 holes, including the first of the play-off holes, in eight under par.

Birdies at the seventh and eighth brought him level with May. Both men then came home in 31, a remarkable figure for the last nine holes of a major. It was a matchplay situation - Thomas Bjorn winning the battle for third five strokes back - and four holes were halved in birdies. May went ahead at the 11th and continued to hit a succession of brilliant iron shots to set up short putts for birdie.

But Woods was rolling in 15-footers at will and the pivotal moment was the 15th. There Woods holed from that distance to save par while May, who might have left the hole three ahead, missed from four feet for birdie. "I had to make that putt," Woods said. "I knew if I missed, he would hole and, three ahead, would be looking pretty good. But if somehow I could bury that putt, his would become more interesting."

"It was critical," May said. "I was too aggressive." May remained one ahead, but the initiative was with his opponent and from then he started pulling his drives, a handicap he could not overcome. Woods had a birdie at the 17th, hitting a drive 335 yards and then pitching to three feet, but May would not give up. Facing a 15-footer for a birdie at the last, he saw the putt curve back from the right, forcing Woods to hole his eight-footer to tie.

From the rough short of the green at the 16th, in the play-off, May somehow hit his pitch stone dead to save par. Woods, however, drained a 20-footer for a birdie and danced after the ball in celebration. The last two holes were slightly messy, but Woods hit his recovery from the bunker at the last to a foot, which meant May had to hole his 25-footer over a ridge.

"I didn't think it was going to get up the hill but when it did I thought it had an outside chance," May said. "Then it started diving to the left and then I knew it was done and over."

Against Woods, there is nothing unusual about that. "I've done it before, making birdies down the stretch, as far back as my US Juniors. I knew I could do it again."

FINAL SCORES FROM VALHALLA

(US unless stated)

270 T Woods 66 67 70 67 B May 72 66 66 66 (Woods won by one stroke in three-hole play-off)

275 T Bjorn (Den) 72 68 67 68

276 S Appleby (Aus) 70 69 68 69G Chalmers (Aus) 71 69 66 70J M Olazabal (Sp) 76 68 63 69

277 F Langham 72 71 65 69

278

N Begay 72 66 70 70 279 D Clarke (GB) 68 72 72 67F Funk 69 68 74 68D Love 68 69 72 70P Mickelson 70 70 69 70T Watson 76 70 65 68S Dunlap 66 68 70 75

280 S Cink 72 71 70 67C Di Marco 73 70 69 68L Westwood (GB) 72 72 69 67M Clark 73 70 67 70

281 R Allenby (Aus) 73 71 68 69, L Janzen 76 70 70 65, T Kite 70 72 69 70, A Cabrera (Arg) 72 71 71 67, J P Hayes 69 68 68 76. 282 P Azinger 72 71 66 73, S Jones 72 71 70 69, J Sandelin (Swe) 74 72 68 68. 283 B Faxon 71 74 70 68, S Kendall 72 72 69 70, T Pernice 74 69 70 70. 284 K Perry 78 68 70 68, M Weir (Can) 76 69 68 71, J Van de Velde (Fr) 70 74 69 71, S Ames (Trin) 69 71 71 73. 285 M Calcavecchia 73 74 71 67, E Els (SA) 74 68 72 71, B McCallister 73 71 70 71, C Perry 72 74 70 69, S Garcia (Sp) 74 69 73 69. 286 C Montgomerie (GB) 74 72 70 70, T Izawa (Japan) 73 73 71 69. 287 J Leonard 73 73 71 70, S Pate 75 70 74 68, J Sluman 73 69 72 73, P Stankowski 75 72 68 72, D Toms 72 6872 75. 288 B Henninger 70 74 71 73, B Langer (Ger) 75 69 73 71, S Maruyama (Japan) 77 69 71 71, M O'Meara 71 72 70 75, D Waldorf 75 70 71 72. 289 A Coltart (GB) 74 71 73 71, G Day 76 71 71 71, N Faldo (GB) 79 68 69 73, J Kaye 69 74 71 75, S Lowery 73 74 73 69, J Parnevik (Swe) 72 74 70 73, B Watts 72 74 73 70, J Ogilvie 73 73 71 72. 290 P Harrington (Ire) 75 72 69 74, D Paulson 72 75 70 73, L Roberts 74 72 71 73, C Strange 72 70 76 72, C Franco (Para) 72 74 74 70. 291 B Glasson 73 74 71 73, W Grady (Aus) 71 74 68 78, J Haas 73 74 68 76, C Stadler 74 69 71 77, M A Jimenez (Sp) 70 77 74 70. 292 G Kraft 71 73 75 73, K Triplett 76 71 73 72. 293 J Huston 75 72 74 72. 294 J Furyk 74 71 74 75, P Lawrie (GB) 75 71 73 75. 297 R Damron 72 74 81 70, S Hoch 73 70 75 79, B Mayfair 74 73 76 74. 299 R Sabbatini (SA) 74 71 76 78. 300 M Ozaki (Japan) 74 71 76 79. 301 H Tanaka (Japan) 72 73 77 79. 313 F Dobbs 75 72 88 78.

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