A victorious march over the bridge for Woods

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 18, 2005

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) &045; For Tiger Woods, there was no time to pause and pose when he reached the top of Swilcan Bridge on Sunday. A second British Open title awaited.

Woods strode swiftly across the stone arch, then removed his cap as he walked briskly up the 18th fairway and onto his 10th major championship, a five-shot victory that marked a defiant return to dominance.

He never trailed over the final 63 holes at St. Andrews and turned in the first wire-to-wire victory at the Open in 32 years. Anyone who questioned his swing changes only had to look at his green jacket from the Masters and the claret jug he held aloft for all to admire.

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&uot;I’ve been criticized for the last couple of years. ‘Why would I change my game?’ This is why,&uot; Woods said. &uot;First, second and first in the last three majors. That’s why.&uot;

With a strong cast of contenders lined up behind him, Woods played some of his best golf of the week. He was the only player to break par in the final seven groups. He closed with a 2-under 70 for the largest margin of victory at a major in five years, and more indelible links to Nicklaus.

Woods and Nicklaus are the only players to win the Grand Slam at least twice, and the only Americans to win the British Open twice at the home of golf. Woods also completed the &uot;Nicklaus Slam,&uot; winning all four majors when the Golden Bear played for the final time.

Just as they did on Friday, thousands of fans squeezed onto balconies and pressed their faces against windows to capture a historic moment. This one remains a work in progress.

&uot;He has 10 of these majors now, and we all know Jack had 18,&uot; Colin Montgomerie said. &uot;He’s over halfway now. It’s amazing. Can he achieve the impossible? He’s on his way.&uot;

Montgomerie provided the only serious challenge to Woods. He was only one shot behind after a two-putt birdie on the ninth, and the frenzied, flag-waving Scottish fans tried to will him to an improbable victory.

Woods was never fazed.

On a breezy afternoon, in conditions so dry that the fairways were faster than the greens, Woods didn’t miss a shot until his lead was up to six and his name was being engraved on the silver jug.

&uot;My only bad shot was on 13 … and I pulled it 10 feet,&uot; Woods said. &uot;And that was it. I mean, I hit the ball so solidly today, all day. It was one of those rounds that I will be thinking about for a long time. I’m very thankful it happened at the right time.&uot;

With a 1-2-1 start in the majors, Woods regained an aura about his play in the majors. Even after he won the Masters in a playoff, there were questions whether he could blow away the competition the way he did when he captured seven out of 11 majors.

But that’s exactly what happened on the Old Course.