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Tiger Takes Another National Title

More than 50,000 people came out to watch Tiger Woods win the Canadian Open. As usual, he gave them so much more another remarkable round, another shot they will never forget.

Pushed to the limit by an unlikely challenger, Woods found another way to build upon his legend by wrapping up his ninth victory of the year with a 6-iron from 218 yards out of a bunker, over the water, right at the flag that sealed his one-stroke win over Grant Waite.

So ended perhaps the greatest summer in golf.

Woods won five of his seven tournaments. Three were major championships, including one that completed the Grand Slam. All five included scoring records. All five were filled with amazing shots that only Woods has in his repertoire.

"He's an extraordinary player who comes along once every generation - or in his case, maybe once in forever," said Waite, who matched Woods shot-for-shot except for the one that left the 36-year-old from New Zealand shaking his head.

Clinging to a one-stroke lead on the par-5 18th, Woods blasted out of the bunker down the right side of the fairway and the ball took its familiar flight crisp and high, lost among the gray clouds spitting rain, descending as the record crowd roared with anticipation, then landing about 18 feet behind the hole in the first cut of rough.

"When pressure is at its peak, that's when your concentration level is at its highest," Woods said. "It builds to a crescendo."

Waite, whose only PGA Tour victory was in 1993, did his part. He hit a 5-iron into 20 feet for a chance at eagle, and forced Woods to go for the green instead of laying up. Waite's putt slid by on the right, and Woods chipped down to a foot and tapped in for birdie, closing out a 7-under-par 65 and yet another championship.

"I've had a wonderful summer," Woods said.

He has won nine of 17 tour events this year, including three in a row. And he has set scoring records in his last five victories 12 under at the U.S. Open, 19 under at the British Open, 18 under at the PGA Championship, a 21-under 259 at Firestone.

Woods was 22 under over his final 49 holes and finished at 266, the lowest 72-hole score in the 22 years that the Canadian Open has been played at Glen Abbey Golf Club.

He was nearly flawless on Sunday, and had to be. Waite, a runner-up for the second straight week in Canada, matched him stroke-for-stroke and put the pressure on all the way to the end.

"Grant forced my hand," Woods said.

Waite had to settle for a bogey-free 66, one stroke short of winning, just like he was in Vancouver last week.

"My goal was not to get too caught up in the hype," Waite said. "I gave him a run fothe money."

Indeed, neither player made a bogey and they combined for 13 birdies to turn the final round into a memorable duel.

"The only way to beat him is to outplay him," Waite said. "Right now, that's a difficult task."

Woods' nine are the most PGA Tour victories in one year since Sam Snead won 11 times in 1950. He earned $594,000, giving him more money in his last 38 tournaments - $14.9 million - than anyone else in their career.

And Woods can now add the Triple Crown to the Grand Slam he completed by winning the British Open at St. Andrews. He became the only other player besides Lee Trevino in 1971 to win the U.S. Open, British Open and Canadian Open in the same year.

Those are the three oldest national championships in golf, all of them conquered by a 24-year-old who knows no limits.

And his knack for dramatic finishes has no end.

Woods had the outright lead for only six holes in the tournament. He grabbed it for good on the par-5 16th with a 12-foot birdie putt. Woods pointed to the cup a gesture that has replaced his famous fist pump - as the ball disappeared to give him a one-stroke lead with two holes to play.

With rain starting to fall, Woods missed his first green at the 17th, but managed to blast out of the bunker to a foot to save par, a tremendous shot since he had so little green between the sand and the flag.

And despite the pressure Waite applied at the end, Woods had an answer much to Waite's disbelief.

"The guy takes out a 6-iron, fires at the flag, with the tournament on the line," he said, shaking his head in wonder. "I told him after we where through, `You're not supposed to do that. You're supposed to hit at the middle of the green.'

"He said, `The shot was on.' I guess it was."

Sergio Garcia, who beat Woods 1-up in their made-for-TV exhibition last week in California, had a 67 but was never a factor and finished seven strokes behind.

Waite stayed with Woods the whole day, but fell victim to the 50,000 people who crammed into Glen Abbey. The click of cameras from the gallery distracted him on his drive on the 16th and it flared out to the right, leaving him no chance to reach the green in two. He missed an 18-footer from the fringe, and Woods took advantage.

"If you make a mistake, he'll leave you," Waite said.

Woods now has 24 tour victories in a career that spans just over four years. And he gets a much-deserved break taking the next five weeks off before The Presidents Cup.

The only other time Waite had played with Woods was the 1993 Nelson Classic, where they both missed the cut. Of course, Woods was still in high school and so much has changed.

Woods, who became the youngest player to complete the Grand Slam, as become the biggest star in sports and draws galleries more suited for major championships everywhere he goes.

Waite's goal was to simple.

"Keep putting one foot in front of the other," he had said after the third round. He wound up going stride for stride, and stroke for stroke, with Woods.

They were tied after nine, and remained that way, matching birdies on 13 and 14. Neither player missed a green until Waite found the fringe on No. 15, but both made pars.

Because three of the final six holes are par-5s and no one hits the ball as long as Woods it figured to be only a matter of time before he wound up a winner once again.

Waite gave him a stiffer test than anyone imagined, but was done in by one bad swing on the 16th. Against Woods, that's usually one too many.

DIVOTS: Waite was the only player to record four rounds in the 60s.

  • Because heavy rain was in the forecast, the "lift, clean and place" policy was in effect for the final round.
  • Frank Nobilo made a hole-in-one on No. 3, a 7-iron from 156 yards and won a 2001 Lincoln LS. It also helped him to a 67, his best round of the year since his first round of the year (Hope Classic).
  • Derek Gillespie was the low Canadian, closing with a 71 for 283. Mike Weir, who had never made the cut in nine previous Canadian Opens, was 73-74 on the weekend and finished at 290.
  • Woods is 22-2 worldwide when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

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