Originally created 02/08/00

Woods wins sixth straight, sets tourney record



PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- An unforgettable comeback kept alive an unimaginable streak.

The ball dropped out of the gray sky and landed about four feet right of the 15th hole, with just enough spin to slide into the cup. Tiger Woods punched the cool, damp air with a right uppercut.

A roar resounded across Pebble Beach. It was the kind of shot that has defined his career, the kind of theater in which Woods thrives.

Seven strokes behind with seven holes to play, Woods rode the energy from his 97-yard eagle on the 15th hole to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Monday, making him the first player since Ben Hogan in 1948 to win six straight tour events.

Next up: Byron Nelson, whose 11 straight victories in 1945 has long been considered an untouchable record.

Not any more. Not after the way Woods won Pebble Beach.

Until Monday, Woods' biggest comeback on the PGA Tour was four strokes going into the final round. He came from eight strokes behind to beat Ernie Els in the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic on the European tour.

But this was something special.

"I don't know about destiny. He's just damned good," said Matt Gogel, the 28-year-old rookie who was on his way to a runaway victory until he turned into another victim of The Streak.

Woods closed with an 8-under 64, the lowest final round by a champion in the 53-year history of Pebble Beach and his lowest closing round in any of his 20 worldwide victories.

He finished at 15-under 273 for a two-stroke victory over Gogel and Vijay Singh. He earned $720,000, moving Woods to No. 2 on the PGA Tour's career money list with more than $12.5 million.

"It's not over until it's over," Woods said about his comeback, although he could just as well be talking about a PGA Tour winning streak that began in August.

"I figured I needed to birdie the last four holes," he said. "I didn't do that -- but I still played it 4 under."

He managed that with an eagle from the 15th fairway, turning to the camera with a simple but powerful message: "I'm back in it."

He followed that with another wedge on the 16th that landed an inch in front of the cup on its second bounce and stopped 2 feet away for a birdie. And he finished it off with a 3-foot birdie putt on the 18th, and a clench of the fist for a comeback he ranks among his best ever.

After he won the Mercedes Championship in Hawaii last month, Woods said he considered his streak to be at one because it's a new year. Now, he's starting to wonder.

"It's definitely more intriguing, there's no doubt about that," he said.

Gogel had a chance to force a playoff, but his 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th slid by on the left. In a state of shock, he missed the putt coming back to make bogey, which dropped him in a tie for second with Singh and cost Gogel $80,000.

Gogel birdied five of the first seven holes, seemingly turning the final round into a rout. He thought the cheers he heard in front of him belonged to either Singh or Notah Begay, and was surprised to see Woods' name atop the leaderboard when he got to the 18th green.

"I was amazed," Gogel said. "I will not be amazed any more."

His shocking collapse -- a 40 on the back nine -- quickly will be forgotten because of the miraculous comeback by a player who never ceases to amaze.

"I said it yesterday -- he's going to be there at the end," said Begay, an ex-teammate at Stanford who finished three behind. "It adds to the whole mystique of Tiger."

It was the 17th career PGA Tour victory for the 24-year-old Woods. Among active players not on the Senior Tour, only Ben Crenshaw (19) and Greg Norman (18) have won more.

What Woods has proved during his winning streak -- even as far back as his three straight U.S. Amateur titles -- is that he can never be counted out until he's no longer on the golf course.

Woods was five strokes behind to start the final round, which was pushed back to Monday because of high winds and rain earlier in the tournament. Despite the relatively serene conditions, he managed only three birdies through the first 11 holes and was running out of time.

Not only was he seven strokes behind, but also there were five players in front of him.

Woods needed some help, and Gogel obliged. Five under after his first seven holes, Gogel came unglued after his first bogey of the day -- on No. 11 -- and handled the spotlight like a deer on the highway.

But this day will be remembered more for the spectacular play by Woods.

Next up for Woods is the Buick Invitational this week in San Diego, where he is the defending champion. Should he continue to win, he would surpass Nelson at the tournament where the Woods legend took root -- the Masters.

For Gogel, it was another lesson to be learned from playing in the final group on the final day. He was there two weeks ago in the Bob Hope Classic, came out conservatively, and quickly was passed.

This time, he started with three straight birdies, and moved to 5-under for the round with a 25-foot birdie from just off the green at No. 7.

The 10th hole is the last one that runs south down the Pacific coast, ending a terrorizing six-hole stretch where the tournament is more often lost than won. When Gogel walked off No. 10 with a par, he had a five-stroke lead over Singh, and Woods was nowhere to be found.

That changed as quickly as clouds replaced sunshine at the start of the round.

Gogel missed a 5-foot par putt on the 11th, then failed to get up and down out of the bunker on the par-3 11th as the pressure of trying to earn his first PGA Tour victory on one of the most storied courses in the world began to take its toll.

If that wasn't enough, the roars that resounded from a half-mile away were enough to shake anybody.

Woods hit a 5-iron on the par-3 12th that stopped 8 feet from the cup for birdie, but he missed a chance for birdie when his 6-foot putt on the par-5 14th slid by.

Then the fun really began.

Only Woods can produce such drama these days. The wedge he holed for eagle, and the next one that bounced in front of the cup at No. 16, were reminiscent of the kind of shots only seen during the Ryder Cup -- only they came from one player.

Woods clenched his fist after his final birdie, as if he knew that would be enough. He came into the press room to watch Gogel play the final two holes, then headed out to the 18th green to pick up another trophy.

Closing in

Byron Nelson's record streak of 11 PGA Tour victories in 1945:

1. Miami Four-Ball, with partner Jug McSpaden.

2. Charlotte Open, beat Sam Snead in playoff.

3. Greater Greensboro Open, by 8 strokes.

4. Durham Open, by 5 strokes.

5. Atlanta Iron Lung, by 9 strokes

6. Montreal Open, by 10 strokes.

7. Philadelphia Inquirer Invitational, by 2 strokes.

8. Chicago Victory National Open, by 1 strokes.

9. PGA Championship, beat Sam Byrd 4 and 3.

10. Tam O'Shanter, by 11 strokes.

11. Canadian Open, by 4 strokes.