Father on His Mind, Woods Surges to British Open Win

An emotional Tiger Woods walks off the course with caddie Steve Williams after winning the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. It was his first major title since his father, Earl, died on May 3.
An emotional Tiger Woods walks off the course with caddie Steve Williams after winning the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. It was his first major title since his father, Earl, died on May 3. (By Andy Lyons -- Getty Images)
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 24, 2006

HOYLAKE, England, July 23 -- Tiger Woods's father, Earl, the man who taught him how to play golf, always preached the importance of thinking his way around a golf course, and never allowing his emotions to show or interfere with his game.

But moments after tapping in his final putt to win his second straight British Open by two shots over Chris DiMarco, Woods could no longer hold in the emotion that, by his own admission, "had been bottled up inside me" since the May 3 death of his father, "Pops," at 74 after a long struggle with prostate cancer.

When he had finished at the 18th hole at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Woods raised his arms, bellowed, "Yes," and punched the air. Seconds later, standing in the middle of the green, he buried his head in the shoulder of his caddie, Steve Williams, and began sobbing uncontrollably as Williams patted him on the back.

With Woods still weeping, they walked off the green toward the scorer's trailer to thunderous applause from thousands in the bleachers all around, many spectators with tears also streaming down their cheeks. Woods found his wife, Elin, and broke down in her arms as well. Finally, he gathered himself, kissed his wife and ducked inside the trailer to sign his scorecard.

"At that moment, it just came pouring out, all the things my father has meant to me and the game of golf," said Woods, 30. "I just wish he could have seen it one more time. I was pretty bummed out after not winning the Masters [he finished in a tie for third in April] because I knew that was the last major he was ever going to see. That one hurt a little bit. And finally to get this one, it's just unfortunate that he wasn't here to see it."

In a posh suburb of Liverpool, the city that produced the Beatles, a golfer for the ages who guards his privacy as fiercely as any rock star showed a very public face at the end of a day of golf beside the Irish Sea. Later, he said the emotions of dealing with a challenging golf course, holding off a gaggle of prominent players trying to catch him and ultimately prevailing in a major championship all paled in comparison with the sadness he felt knowing he would not be able to tell his father all about it.

"I miss my dad so much and I wish he was here to watch this," Woods said in a TV interview immediately after winning.

Known for an ability to concentrate that borders on aloofness as well as for angry outbursts after a poor shot or a bad bounce, Woods had shown a hint of his softer side after his victory in the 2005 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. He had choked up during the victory ceremony when he mentioned that Earl Woods, for the first time, had been too weak to attend. But he quickly recovered that day, the facade again intact.

Winning his 11th major championship, Woods became the first player since Tom Watson in 1982-83 to win his sport's oldest major championship in successive years. He did it with a final round of five-under-par 67, matching the best score of the day, and a 72-hole total of 18-under par 270, a shot off his own Open record set at St. Andrews in 2000. He also held off DiMarco, his friend and Ryder Cup teammate whose mother Norma died of a heart attack July 4.

"He would have been proud, very proud," Woods said of his father, a career soldier and his son's best friend. "He was always on my case about thinking my way around the golf course and not letting emotions get the better of you, because it's so very easy to do in this sport. Just use your mind to plot your way around, and if you had to deviate from the game plan make sure it's the right decision to do that."

A month after missing the cut at the U.S. Open, the first time he had done so at a major tournament in his pro career, Woods stuck with his strategy of leaving his driver in the bag all week and using long irons and a 3-wood off the tee, the better to avoid serious trouble and keep his ball safely in play from the fairway. As a result, he hit more fairways than any player in the field.

After he had once again hoisted the Claret Jug high above his head, he also said the third time was easily the best.

"Absolutely no doubt about it. To win your first tournament after my father had passed away, and for it to be a major championship, it makes it that much more special. And Mom was watching," said Woods, whose mother, Kultida, had remained home in California this week, missing for the first time one of Woods's major championship victories. "I'm sure she was bawling her eyes out, like she can. It's going to be an awful lot of fun for me to go back home and see Mom and share it with her."

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