Tiger wins playoff, ruins May’s day

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2000

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) The only question left for Tiger Woods in major championships may be how he wins them.

If they’re anything like the PGA Championship, golf is in for a treat.

Blowout wins in the U.S. Open and British Open gave way Sunday to a thrilling duel down the stretch before Woods edged Bob May by a stroke in a three-hole playoff to win his third straight major title.

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It was the fifth major overall for Woods, but this show may have been his finest.

“It was one memorable battle,” Woods said. “Birdie-for-birdie, shot-for-shot, we were going right at each other.”

Woods barely had a chance to hold the Wanamaker trophy aloft, though, and he was already being asked the question that may haunt his career.

What’s next?

Four majors in a year, of course something no one has ever done. Or a second green jacket at Augusta that would give Woods four in a row and an argument that four straight qualifies as a Grand Slam no matter whether they are all in the same year.

“I’d like to think it does,” Woods said. “But that’s not up to me to say.”

At the age of 24, Woods cemented his spot in golf lore even further by matching May birdie for birdie down the stretch before going three extra holes to claim his fifth major championship.

Unlike his romps at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, this one was never decided until Woods came out of a greenside bunker for par on the final playoff hole to beat May by a shot.

“I think it’s got to go down as one of the best duels in the game, in major championships,” Woods said.

The huge throngs cheering wildly would find it hard to argue. And so would May, whose back-nine 31 gave him his third straight 66 but left him in only a tie after the regulation 72 holes with a PGA-record 18-under 270.

“I think if you shoot three 66s in a major you should win,” he said. “But you are playing against the best player in the world, and he proved that is not good enough.”

Woods used only 15 putts over his last 12 holes and both he and May made stirring birdie putts on the final hole of regulation to finish his own personal Grand Slam of scoring records in major championships.

He lost the lead early in the round and didn’t regain it until the first overtime hole, when a 25-footer for birdie sent him prancing and pointing at the hole in glee.

If it weren’t for a 15-footer he made for par on the 15th hole of regulation, though, May might be holding the Wanamaker Cup instead. After Woods made the par putt, May missed his 4-footer for birdie and what could have been a three-shot lead with three to go was only one.

“Ballgame is on now,” caddie Steve Williams told Woods as they walked off the green.

Indeed it was. Two holes later, Woods hit a sand wedge to 4 feet and made the birdie putt to tie.

It merely set the stage for the drama on 18, when both players hit the par-5 with their second shots but both faced long efforts over tall ridges to get close to the hole.

May, who got his tour card only last fall and had only one European Tour win to his credit, hit his first to the back fringe 18 feet away. Woods then got his to 6 feet.

May made his putt and Woods had to make his to tie. He did, sending off a fist-pumping display.

“Coming down the stretch I never really was caught up in the drama of it because you are focused in on what you have to do,” Woods said. “I mean, you have to execute golf shots. You can’t focus on the fact that, oh, well, he made birdie.”

The playoff could have been anticlimactic, but it wasn’t. Woods went ahead for good with his putt on 16, then both players had to make putts on the next hole to save par from off the green.

Incredibly, after the sparkling play that marked most of the day, both Woods and May drove way left on the final hole. Woods had to knock it a foot from the hole out of a greenside bunker to get his par, and when May’s long putt over the ridge curled just past the hole, Woods was a champion once again.

“On the back nine on Sunday at a major championship, knowing the fact that par is not going to win, that is different,” Woods said. “Usually you can just kind of cruise in with pars and win. That wasn’t going to be the case today.”

Woods started the day a shot ahead and seemingly on his way to an easy win. But it was May who grabbed the lead on the front side, and refused to let go.

By the time Woods and May were on the back nine they had opened up a gap and it was basically match play, just as the PGA Championship had been before it was switched to stroke play in 1958.

May would come up short, but for a 31-year-old who barely won expense money on the PGA Tour before this year, playing well when it counted was a victory in itself.

“Obviously if I would have won, I’d have a little big different feeling,” May said. “But, believe it or not, I don’t feel disappointed at all. I played a good, solid round of golf. And I just fell a little short.”