CHASKA, Minn., Aug. 18 - By the time Tiger Woods finally started acting like himself Sunday, it was too late. A dramatic fist-pumping birdiefest on the final holes of the PGA Championship whipped the crowd into a frenzy and added to the lore of the game’s greatest player.
ABOUT THE ONLY thing it didn’t do was give Woods his third major title of the year. Rich Beem made sure of that with a Tiger-like eagle of his own that made Woods a major championship runner-up for the first time in his career.
“I sucked it up and made it happen,” Woods said. “That’s something I’m proud of. I could have easily bagged it and made pars coming in. That’s not the way I play.”
Woods’ frantic charge of four birdies on the last four holes came up short only because he uncharacteristically faltered with a three-putt bogey on the 13th hole and followed it with another bogey on the 14th to put him five shots behind.
Television commentators suggested Woods flinched and three-putted from 12 feet because he saw the scoreboard in front of him showing Beem had just made eagle on the 11th hole.
Woods suggested otherwise.
“Sometimes they have no idea what they’re talking about,” Woods said.
Woods said he thought the first putt was slower and hit it too hard, then hit a bad putt coming back. A bad 4-iron off the 14th tee then set up a second bogey.
InsertArt(1597331)After pulling his tee shot left on the 15th hole, though, the Tiger Woods golf fans know and love suddenly returned.
“I told (caddie) Stevie (Williams) walking down the fairway that if we can birdie in we’ll win the tournament,” Woods said. “Let’s just suck it up and get it done.”
Woods was still five back, but now the game was on.
From the trees off the 15th fairway he slashed a 2-iron to 55 yards and punched a wedge to about 8 feet for birdie. On the treacherous 16th hole he hit a 3-iron off the tee and an 8-iron to about 10 feet and made that, too.
Woods pumped his fist and strode with a steely look in his eyes to the par-3 17th, where he hit a 7-iron about 10 feet and made his third straight birdie.
It was more of the same on the 18th when Woods hit a 7-iron to about 6 feet and a fourth straight birdie that had the crowd roaring.
InsertArt(1597332)“I didn’t miss a shot coming in,” he said.
Woods was out of holes, though, and out of luck.
Beem had made a long birdie putt on the 16th hole and parred 17. By the time he hit it on the 18th green, Woods was signing his scorecard with the knowledge that the game was over.
“Once he dumped the ball on the green I figured he could shake it in three from there,” Woods said. “I mean, you can three-putt from there with no problem.”
Woods started the day five shots off the lead held by Justin Leonard and hoping to get hot early and put some pressure on. He thought if he got within two or three shots of the lead at the turn he’d have a chance to win.
When he finished the front nine only a shot behind the new leader, Beem, he had his third major of the year straight in his sights.
“To be only one back was an added bonus,” Woods said.
Woods was still a shot back on the 13th hole when he heard the unmistakable roar from the crowd behind him. Beem had taken a page out of Woods’ book and hit a 5-wood 263 yards to 6 feet on the par-5 11th and made the putt for eagle.
“We assumed it was an eagle,” Woods said. “Walking up to the green, that was just confirmed by when we looked on the board.”
Woods had about a 12-footer for birdie but misjudged it, running it 3 feet by. He blocked that putt and was suddenly four behind.
“I just didn’t trust my original read and my original instincts on the putt, which cost me,” Woods said. “Second putt was just blocked. It was a bad putt.”
After a bogey on the next hole and a badly pulled tee shot on the 15th, it seemed Woods was done. What no one knew among the 45,000 or so watching was that he was just beginning.
For awhile, it looked like it might be enough for Woods to win another thrilling duel in the PGA Championship the way he did when he shot 31 on the back nine two years ago to tie and eventually beat Bob May.
Beem wouldn’t allow that, though, and Woods was left with his first second-place finish in a major championship and mixed emotions about how it all ended.
“It is frustrating. Any time you finish second in any tournament it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing,” Woods said. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword right now because I’m frustrated. I made the mistakes on 13 and 14, but then again, I’m also pumped at the way I finished. I’m going to learn from those mistakes and I’m also going to learn from the way I approached those last four holes as well.”
© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Latest golf video
The Office's Baumgartner shows off his golf game
DPS: Actor Brian Baumgartner from "The Office" tells Dan Patrick how he felt about the series finale of his show and delves into his golfing routines and even hits the ball while still on the phone with the DPS crew.
Top 10 'accessible' golf courses
From California to Florida, these amazing greens are open for anyone to play.