Woods Earned Title at 12th Hole

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- A small group of caddies huddled around a TV in the Royal & Ancient locker room, watching the engraver work furiously to finish off Tiger Woods' name on the claret jug as the British Open champion made his triumphant stroll up the 18th fairway.
 
``He could have done that 30 minutes ago, couldn't he?'' one of them asked rhetorically.
 
At least.
 
Woods effectively won his 10th career major about 75 minutes earlier, still six holes from finish. Three putts, in bang-bang-bang succession, effectively choked all the drama out of the 134th Open.
 
Colin Montgomerie made bogey on the difficult par-4 13th hole. Just behind at the short par-4 12th, Jose Maria Olazabal took bogey, too, before Woods tapped in for a birdie.
 
A tenuous two-stroke cushion over his two closest challengers became an overwhelming four-shot advantage for the world's best player.
 
Game over.
 
The rest of the day was a mere victory lap for Woods, who went on to a five-stroke victory over Montgomerie, with Olazabal landing another shot back in a tie for third.
 
``Tiger made the birdie on 12,'' Monty said, as brutally honest as ever, ``and that was that.''
 
Woods, who became only the third golfer to win 10 major championships, shot a bogey-free 34 on the front side that could have been much lower. His approach at No. 6 hit the flagstick, the ball deflecting back off the green. A punch wedge at 7 spun right by the cup, and Woods missed a 6-footer coming back. Another birdie got away at the eighth, a hole he nearly aced before botching a 4-footer.
 
When Woods made bogey at No. 10, a repeat of the Masters seemed possible. Back in April, the greatest closer in golf squandered a two-shot lead at Augusta National with bogeys on the final two holes, forcing a playoff against Chris DiMarco.
 
Granted, Woods bounced back to claim his fourth green jacket on the 19th hole, but this wasn't the same dominating golfer who won seven of 11 majors at the beginning of the new millennium
 
Woods' dominating facade took another hit at U.S. Open, when two late bogeys cost him a chance to run down Michael Campbell.
 
So, when Woods drove into a pot bunker at No. 10, leading to his first bogey of the round, a buzz swept across the Old Course. Could their beloved Monty pull off his first major? Could Olazabal get an Open to go with his two Masters wins.
 
Then came the 12th. Woods unleashed a monstrous drive and chipped to 4 feet. Olazabal put his ball in a gorse bush, came up short of the green, chipped to 12 feet and missed the par-saving putt.
 
At virtually the same time, Montgomerie stood over a 6-footer to save par. He, too, watched the ball slide by the hole.
 
Woods went to 14-under, Olazabal and Montgomerie to 10-under.
 
The Spaniard also moaned about his bogey at No. 6, which dropped him three strokes behind Wood.
 
``I had some bad swings on 6 and 12, and that's where my chances were done,'' Olazabal said. ``If I'd played those two holes well, then it could've been a different story.''
 
Maybe. But Woods had positioned himself well the first three days, starting out 66-67 and scrambling for a 1-under 71 Saturday even while driving twice into the prickly bushes, costing him a pair of one-stroke penalties.
 
Woods came to the final round with a two-shot advantage over Olazabal and a three-stroke cushion over Montgomerie and Retief Goosen.
 
The South African wasn't a factor, stumbling out of contention with bogeys on the first two holes and four of the first eight. He finished at 74 -- not as embarrassing as his collapse on the final day of the U.S. Open, but another poor showing with a major championship on the line.
 
Even though there were plenty of major winners and highly ranked golfers lined up behind Woods, no one seriously challenged. Eighteen players were within six strokes at the start of the day, and Bernhard Langer was the only one to break par, posting a 1-under 71 that wasn't nearly good enough.
 
When the official end came, the engraver having carved all 10 letters into the hallowed trophy in time for Woods to hold it aloft, Sean O'Hair settled onto a bench in front of that clubhouse TV. He had finished 5-under, 9 strokes back in a tie for 15th.
 
``I'm going to take a week off, then try to figure out how to compete with that guy,'' the PGA Tour rookie said.
 
``You had a good week,'' an R&A worker remarked.
 
O'Hair shook his head.
 
``I'm not even close,'' he said, glancing toward the TV, ``to that guy.''
 
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