Tiger Woods became only the second man in golfing history to win three majors in one season
after an epic US PGA Championship at Valhalla, Louisville, Kentucky, which reached a thrilling climax in the first three-hole play-off in the tournament’s history.
Woods finally emerged triumphant after a gripping head-to-head with European Tour Member and fellow Californian, Bob May, to join the great Ben Hogan as the only players to capture three major titles in one calendar year.
At 24, Woods also added two more entries in the record books – he and May broke the Championship low total of 17 under par by finishing 18 under after 72 holes. Then, by winning an action-packed play-off by a stroke – one under to May’s three adventurous pars – Woods emulated Denny Shute in 1937 by successfully defending the title.
Woods now has possession of three of the four majors for a total of five in four years as a professional. For good measure, he holds the record low scores for the Masters, US Open, Open Championship and now the US PGA.
Denmark’s Thomas Björn, runner-up to Woods in the Open, delivered another massive performance by taking outright third, five strokes behind the two principals with a closing 68 for a total of 275.
He might have been joined on that mark by José Maria Olazábal, had the Spaniard not bogeyed the final hole. However Olazábal still produced a fine week’s work, tying for fourth place after becoming the 18th golfer to shoot the lowest round in major history, a nine under par 63 in the third round. He shot a closing 69 for 276 and was left to rue his opening 76.
While Woods and May fought out the play-off for the title, the European Tour was heavily represented at the sharp end of the leaderboard. Apart from Björn and Olazábal, there was a top ten place for Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, who opened with a 68 and closed with a 67 for 279 and tied ninth spot.
Lee Westwood also finished with a 67 for 280 and tied 15th, Angel Cabrera of Argentina tied 19th on 281, Jarmo Sandelin tied 24th and Jean Van de Velde sharing 30th place. Colin Montgomerie, European No.1 for the past seven years, was unable to break 70 in any of his four rounds and occpuied tied 39th.
However the centre stage belonged to Woods and the unfancied but inspired 31 year old May, who won the 1999 Victor Chandler British Masters and made such a stout defence of his title just seven days earlier at Woburn, eventually finishing fifth behind Gary Orr.
For the first time since the tournament switched from match play to stroke play in 1958 the title was decided over three holes of stroke play rather than sudden death. For a long time, it appeared that the play-off would be unnecessary as Woods went through his first six holes in two over par to relinquish his advantage to May.
But after leading through the first three days, Woods was determined not to pass up his chance to add further entries in the record journals. He played the remaining 12 holes in seven under par, catching May on the 71st with a superb birdie. Both players conjured up miraculous birdies on the last – May coaxing in a 12 footer before Woods eased in his birdie attempt from five feet to stay alive.
Back they went to the 16th tee and Woods, who had won the US Open and Open this summer in starkly different circumstances by 15 and eight strokes, brought huge roars from the crowds ringing the green when he made a 20-footer for his third successive birdie and a one-stroke lead - after May had almost holed his pitch-and-run.
May, a 31-year-old playing only the fourth major of his career and without a single US Tour win, and Woods both scrambled pars at the 17th as tension showed in both men. But that had nothing on the long 18th. Woods wildly hooked left and the ball appeared destined for bushes until it appeared bouncing down a cart path.
May drove into deep rough, both were still in rough after two, then Woods's third found sand. May was on in three, but on the wrong level. Unless May holed Woods had to get up and down to match Ben Hogan's 1953 feat - and he splashed out to within inches of the cup.
May gave his putt a superb run at the hole, but it bent across the front and just missed.
May, who birdie four out of five holes from the turn, had missed his chance to close out Woods on the 15th. It proved to be a pivotal moment as Woods somehow got up and down for a par – holing from 12 feet – before May missed his four footer for a birdie. A possible three shot lead for May was avoided and Woods, just one in arrears, cashed in over the closing holes and play-off which will live long in the memory.