Sunday Morning Coming Down

By Mercer BaggsJuly 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship Hes now won 11 of these things. But its hardly old hat. Tiger Woods loves to win major championships, and each one has its own special meaning.
None like this one.
Ten times, Tiger has been able to celebrate a major victory with his father, Earl. This time he could not. Earl passed away May 3 due to cancer, leaving his son with lots of memories and lots of emotion.
Tiger Woods and caddie
Tiger Woods and Steve Williams embrace after Woods' third Open Championship victory.
That emotion, previously unavailable for public consumption, overflowed Sunday evening in England, when Tiger tapped in his par putt for a two-stroke victory ' a repeat performance ' in the 135th Open Championship.
Woods raised his fists, gave a shout that Pops could hear in Heaven, and then broke down. He hugged his caddie, Steve. As Williams went to pull away, Tiger held on. He buried his head into Williams broad right shoulder and covered it in tears. He then shared an extended embrace with his wife, Elin. And another with his instructor, Hank Haney, as well as with a few other people.
He didnt have his father to bear hug this time, so he spread the love around to everyone else.
It was honest and real. It was the best moment of this championship.
Driving into work this morning, trying to beat Tiger and Sergio to the first tee, I heard a song, Sunday Morning Coming Down, and wondered if Johnny Cash was singing the theme for this finale at Royal Liverpool.
It sure seemed like it, especially with everyone tumbling down the leaderboard early.
Chris DiMarco bogeyed the first. Jim Furyk bogeyed the first two. Adam Scott did the same. Mark Calcavecchia bogeyed 2. Garcia three-putted 2 and 3 for bogey. Angel Cabrera tripled the second. Ernie Els didn't falter, but never made a move.
By the time Woods made the turn, he had a three-stroke lead. It looked like a reprise of the 2002 Masters Tournament, when Woods led a group of world-class players by a slim margin, posted a modest final-round score, and still won handily.
Thank goodness for an inspired DiMarco. He put forth a fight that would have made his late mother so very proud of her son.
His birdie at 13, combined with Tigers bogey at 12, cut his deficit to just one. But he could get no closer. Woods birdied 14 and 15 ' with still two par-5s to play ' to create a separation that could not be fully filled.
Woods wasnt flawless this Sunday, but he was close. He tied the lowest score of the day, a 5-under 67, which is remarkable considering that he was playing from the front.
Just goes to show you what he can do when it puts his ball in play.
By using driver only once over four rounds, he managed to hit an astonishing 86 percent of these tricky and unpredictable links fairways ' this from a man who ranks outside the top 175 this season on the PGA TOUR in accuracy off the tee, and who hit only 25 percent of the fairways in two quick rounds at the U.S. Open.
And even though he was hitting longer irons into greens crustier than W.C. Fields, he managed to get his ball to finish on them 81 percent of the time, 15 of 18 on Sunday. He knew that he couldnt be aggressive, and so he wasnt. He just made sure to hit as many browns in regulation as possible, just put the ball anywhere on a putting surface that mirrored worn-out grass in the final match at Wimbledon.
His execution was brilliant. His putting, save for portions of the third round, was magnificent. His pace was perfect, particularly on Sunday.
His only mistake came in the form of an errant approach shot at 12, which led to his only dropped shot of the day, and can be attributed to the annoyance of the incessant clicking of camera phones.
Woods was as close to mistake-free as a player can be in the final round of a major championship.
Such cannot be said of his playing competitor.
Garcias first mistake came when he got dressed in the morning. After watching him the last two days, I thank my mother for making me color blind.
Sergios game was almost as offensive as his attire. Nerves attributed to a couple of early, critical errors. Frustration or disappointment may have contributed to a couple more going out. One day after shooting a front-nine 29 to rally into contention, he was 10 shots higher to plummet out.
Regardless of how he may try and spin it, this was a big loss for the 26-year-old Spaniard. Heading to the PGA Championship at Medinah, site of his electric introduction to the golfing public in 1999, Garcia is still without a major championship.
But its not just that ' its not just that Sergio hasnt won one of golfs Big 4. Its that this week ' this final round ' proved that he is no nearer Woods than he was seven years ago. In fact, hes no where close.
But, then, who is? Perhaps Phil Mickelson, who should not be discredited because of a lackluster performance this week.
Woods, though, on the heels of missing his first cut as a professional in a major championship, proved once again that he is still the standard.
The whole week, not just on Sunday, he was in complete control of his mind, his body and his clubs. And even his emotions.
It was all in-check ' until it was all over. Then, it all came pouring out.
As Kris Kristofferson wrote, and Johnny Cash sang to me this morning: And Lord, it took me back to something that Id lost. Somewhere, somehow along the way.
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
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    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

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    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee: