TULSA, Okla. — The 13th major for Tiger Woods looked like so many others until he finished.
His father is no longer alive for Woods to walk into his arms. His mother no longer travels to any major but the Masters. He now shares his triumphs with a wife and baby daughter, and the biggest surprise Sunday at the PGA Championship was seeing them when he walked into the scoring trailer to sign for a 69 and a two-shot victory.
Naturally, 2-month-old Sam Alexis was decked out in red.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never had before,” Woods said after turning back a brief scare to win the final major of the year. “Having Sam there and having Elin there, it feels a lot more special. And it used to be my mom and dad. And now Elin, and now we have our own daughter. So it’s evolved, and this one feels so much more special than the other majors.”
On the golf course, it was the same old story.
With his five-shot lead trimmed to a single stroke, Woods kept his cool in temperatures that reached 102 degrees. He hit 7-iron to
10 feet on the 15th hole for a birdie that gave him some breathing room, and the bold drive on the 16th — Woods twirled the club in his hand when he saw it split the middle — was the sure sign this major was over.
Woody Austin (67) and Ernie Els (66) made spirited runs, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
And so, a season of first-time winners in the majors ended with a most familiar champion.
His fourth PGA Championship gave him 13 majors, leaving him only five short of the benchmark set by Jack Nicklaus, and well ahead of the pace set by the Golden Bear.
Woods, 31, won his 13th major in his 44th start. Nicklaus was 35 when he won his 13th major in his 53rd try as a pro.
He is so dominant in his era that Woods now has more majors (13) then the rest of the top 10 in the world ranking combined (12).
He finished at 8-under 272 and won for the fifth time this year.
This by far was the biggest, especially after coming in second at the Masters and the U.S. Open.
“It turned into a great year,” Woods said. “I felt like I’ve played well most of the year, and just didn’t quite get it done in the first two major championships. And then on Sunday afternoon, just didn’t get it done. This time I did.”
Austin, a 43-year-old former bank teller, had a 12-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole that would have tied him for the lead. That was as close as he got, although it was quite a consolation. His runner-up finish was enough for him to make the Presidents Cup team.
“I think it’s great that Ernie and I didn’t let him just coast in,” Austin said.
Despite missing birdie putts inside 8 feet on the ninth and 11th hole, Els was one shot off the lead until pulling his tee shot into the trees on the 16th and taking bogey. He wound up alone in third.
“To come back from six back against the world’s No. 1 was always going to be tough,” Els said. “But I gave it a shot.”
For the second time in his career, Woods has gone three straight years winning a major, and it was the fourth time he has hoisted the heavy Wanamaker Trophy, one short of the record held by Nicklaus and Walter Hagen.
The only thing different about this title was how it ended.
Woods became the first major champion in seven tries to make a par on the 72nd hole at Southern Hills. And it was his first major as a father. Sam Alexis was born the Monday after the U.S. Open.
Elin and Sam arrived in the middle of the week, their first trip to a tournament. Woods did not know they were coming to the course.
“I wasn’t really paying attention when I saw them,” he said. “I was so excited and just wanted to give Elin and Sam a kiss and get back to signing my scorecard.”
Woods is now 13-0 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round. The margin was three shots this time, and he stretched it to five with consecutive birdies at Nos. 7 and 8 that seemed to siphon all the drama out of Southern Hills. Austin made a surprising charge, however, and Woods three-putted for bogey on the 14th that dropped his lead to one.
That was as close as it got.
Austin, playing in only his 15th major, made three straight birdies starting at the par-3 11th, none bigger than a 60-footer he chipped in from the front of the 12th green, tugging his ear to get the crowd jacked up.
“I was trying to get them to go crazy for someone else, so he’d know there’s someone else out here,” Austin said. “There’s no roar like his. It was nice to hear the loudest one I’ve ever heard for me.”
But it wasn’t enough.
After his three-putt bogey on the 14th, Woods hit every fairway and every green the rest of the way. Woods’ final stroke was a 3-foot par on the 18th hole, and he took his time. In the last major at Southern Hills, Retief Goosen three-putted from 12 feet and had to win the U.S. Open the following day in a playoff.
Woods removed the ball from the cup and stuck it in his pocket, then removed his cap and thrust both arms in the air as sweat poured down his face from a fourth straight day with temperatures topping 100.
Stephen Ames, who played in the final group with Woods, made bogey on the first two holes and wound up with a 76.
Arron Oberholser settled down after a bogey-bogey start for a 69 that gave him a tie for fourth with John Senden (71) at 279, which secured a spot for both in the Masters next year.
Els said if had been watching from home, he would have bet the house on Woods winning his 13th major. Inside the ropes, the Big Easy played as though he had an ace up his sleeve. Birdies on two of the first five holes at least got his name on the leaderboard, and Els kept plugging away with another birdie on the eighth that briefly drew him to within two shots.
Woods was two groups behind, and after a sluggish start, he began to separate himself from his challengers. He followed a 5-foot birdie on the seventh with a 25-foot birdie putt from just off the green at the par-5 eighth. Woods backpedaled as the ball drew near the hole, then slammed his fist in celebration.
But his knee buckled slightly on the slope, and he appeared to wince. His walk was steady down the ninth fairway, but that five-shot lead was anything but that.
Els continued to gamble, waiting for the 10th green to clear and belting driver on the 366-yard dogleg to just left of the green, leaving him a simple up-and-down for birdie. Austin also began his big run, and when Woods three-putted the 14th, the lead was down to one.
“I felt like, you know, I got myself into this mess, now I’ve got to go earn my way out of it,” Woods said. “I did some serious yelling at myself going to the 15th tee.”
The cheers died in the final hour and the outcome was inevitable.
Until proven otherwise, Woods simply doesn’t lose when he has the lead going into the final round. He took control of this tournament with his record-tying 63 in the second round, and became the fifth player to shoot 63 in a major and go on to win.
Woods went one stretch winning 7-of-11 majors. He now is on a 5-of-12 run, and getting closer to Nicklaus.
“Even though I’m at 13, it’s still a long way away,” he said. “You can’t get it done in one year. It’s going to take time. It took Jack 20 years to get it done, 20-plus years. Hopefully, health permitting and everything goes right and I keep improving, I’ll one day surpass that.”
Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won the most professional major championships in history. Their titles:
Jack Nicklaus (18)
• 6 Masters (1963, ’65, ’66, ’72, ’75, ’86)
• 5 PGAs (1963, ’71, ’73, ’75, ’80)
• 4 U.S. Opens (1962, ’67, ’72, ’80)
• 3 British Opens (1966, ’70, ’78)
TIGER WOODS (13)
• 4 Masters (1997, 2001, ’02, ’05)
• 4 PGAs (1999, 2000, ’06, ’07)
• 3 British Opens (2000, ’05, ’06)
• 2 U.S. Opens (2000, ’02)