Tiger Woods tames the world's best to win another Masters _ his third title at Augusta

Sunday, April 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) _ Tiger Woods knew the routine.

Tug the brim of the cap coming up the 18th fairway. Tap in the winning putt. Smile and wave to the gallery. Give mom and dad a big hug. Head to the putting green to pick up the customary green jacket given to the winner of golf's most prestigious tournament.

Woods took home his third Masters championship on Sunday, ousting a superb collection of players to continue his dominance at golf's hallowed grounds.

``Besides Jack Nicklaus, Tiger is the best player (ever),'' said runner-up Retief Goosen, a helpless bystander as Woods cruised to a three-stroke victory. ``Give him a couple more years and I think Tiger will be even greater than Jack Nicklaus. It's just a matter of time.''

Goosen, the U.S. Open champion, was tied for the lead and was joined by several other stalwarts who looked poised to challenge Woods. Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal were in the wings, waiting to challenge.

Was Woods worried? Nah.

``I always felt that I had the game that was good enough to win here,'' Woods said.

Woods cruised to victory with a 12-under-par 276 on a toughened-up, redesigned Augusta National.

The victory gave Woods his seventh major golf championship. He's 11 behind Nicklaus' career record with no one showing much willingness to challenge him.

At the start of Sunday's round, six of the seven top players in the world rankings were on the leaderboard. If there was ever a day for someone to overtake Woods in the final round of a major, this was it.

Instead, he had the look of a champion all day, making Woods 7-for-7 when he goes to the final round with the lead in the biggest tournaments.

``The thing about Tiger, he's the only leader that you don't have any hope that he'll falter,'' Mickelson said.

Woods seized control with an early burst of birdies and watched his rivals crash in a desperate and reckless attempt to catch him.

The result was another march into history, with Woods becoming only the third player to win back-to-back titles. The first was Nicklaus, followed by Nick Faldo in 1989-90.

``I think we're going to wear this jacket out putting it on you before your career is over,'' Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said as he slipped the size 42 long green jacket over Woods' shoulders.