CHASKA, Minn., Aug. 19 - Take away some wretched weather in the third round at Muirfield and two magical shots by Rich Beem at Hazeltine, and Tiger Woods might have a Grand Slam no one could debate.
TWICE IN THE PAST THREE YEARS, Woods has come closer to winning all four majors in the same year than the records might reflect.
In the 2000 Masters, two swings led to a double bogey (No. 10) and a triple bogey (No. 12) in the first round at Augusta National. He wound up six strokes behind, then won the final three majors by a combined 23 strokes, including a playoff.
This year was not much different.
“Extremely successful” was how Woods described the season after his most spectacular finish in a major still wasn’t good enough to beat Beem in the PGA Championship.
After winning the Masters and the U.S. Open by three shots each, hopes of a Grand Slam came to a crashing halt when Woods posted a third-round 81 at the British Open. He had a chance at Hazeltine to become the first player to win an American slam — all three U.S. majors in the same year — until he ran into Beem.
“I had a bad round at the British, but other than that I shot 10-under par the other three rounds,” Woods said. “And this tournament, I finished second, one shot back. So, I came close here.”
He’ll have to wait eight months to start over, but at 26, this might not be the last chance Woods has at a calendar Grand Slam.
Woods didn’t intimidate Beem in the final round of the PGA Championship. Still, his final round — or at least his final four holes — might be as impressive as some of his eight major championships.
A three-putt from 12 feet on the 13th hole, followed by a pulled 4-iron off the tee that set up another bogey on the next hole, left Woods six shots out of the lead with four holes to play.
Beem had five holes in front of him, and showed no signs of breaking down. For a guy playing in only his fourth major, Beem was remarkably poised.
Without having to dip into his bag for a swig of antacid, Beem hit every fairway off the tee, missed only one green in regulation and played his last five holes in 1 over.
He wound up winning with one shot to spare.
Woods doesn’t win them all, but he never quits trying.
“I sucked it up and got the job done coming in, and that’s something I’m very proud of,” he said. “I could have easily just bagged it and made pars coming in. Who really cares? But that’s not the way I play.”
Walking down the 15th fairway, with his ball in the left rough from another errant drive, Woods told caddie Steve Williams, “If we birdie in, we’ll win the tournament.”
What followed was a charge that was almost as memorable as Beem’s victory.
A wedge to 8 feet for birdie on No. 15. An 8-iron to 10 feet on No. 16. A 7-iron to 10 feet on No. 17. Another 7-iron to 4 feet on the last hole.
InsertArt(1598205)“I said, ’All right, just don’t miss a shot coming in. You’ve got to birdie every hole. Take it one shot at a time, but you’ve just got to hit every shot the way you know you can,”’ Woods said. “That’s exactly what I did. I didn’t miss a shot coming in.”
Fred Funk was playing with Woods and was equally impressed.
“You think the momentum is gone at that point, but then he hits that bad tee shot on No. 15 and he turns that into a birdie,” Funk said. “Every shot he hit coming in on 16, 17 and 18 might have gone in the hole. That’s pretty special.”
Even better were the two shots from Beem, the kind that make majors so special.
He was clinging to a one-stroke lead over Woods when he tried to reach the green of the 597-yard 11th in two with a fairway metal that is a hybrid of a 5-wood and a 7-wood.
Urging it along with his arms, Beem knew from the roar it was on the green. The ball stopped rolling 6 feet short of the pin, and when his putt dropped the cheers were deafening.
“I didn’t think Justin (Leonard) would have the length to get there, so it would have had to have been Rich,” said Woods, who was up ahead on the 12th green. “It was a huge roar, so we assumed it was an eagle.”
There was no mistaking the other cheer, either.
Beem’s 9-iron from 148 yards barely cleared the marsh at the corner of Lake Hazeltine on No. 16, leaving him 35 feet away. The birdie putt was true as soon as it left his club, and Beem was so overjoyed that he heaved his ball into the lake.
Woods was just getting ready to putt on No. 17 when he heard another roar.
“You could see in his eyes that he knew it was Rich,” Funk said. “Then he still poured it right in the middle.”
The last two holes were the first time Beem played it safe the entire round. He hit the middle of the green for a two-putt par on the 17th, then hit a thin 8-iron to the front of the 18th green for a three-putt that didn’t matter.
His victory meant no slam of any kind for Woods this year, Grand or American. And it meant the world to Beem, who has a major game and now the confidence to go with it.
© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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