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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
The human Tiger
By Tom Fordyce

Tiger Woods and Steve Williams
The moment the ice-cool Tiger let it all out
Tiger Woods' two-shot victory at Hoylake was remarkable for more than just his faultless golf.

Hey, we expect that from Tiger. Technically incredible though his play over four days was, we have seen it before.

Eleven majors by the age of 30 - two years younger than the age at which Jack Nicklaus reached that mark - tell their own story.

What distinguished Sunday from all those other crimson-clad final rounds was the contrast between the Woods we have come to know - an automaton of excellence, impervious to pressure - and the tearful, emotionally-raw young man who showed the watching world his private grief on the 18th green.

Woods is a golfer who has succeeded because he has kept his emotions in check, no matter how tough the circumstances.

As his close friend and confidant Mark O'Meara says, "He sees admitting weakness as something that helps his opponents."

It's about how strong you are, the faith you have in yourself

Jack Nicklaus
From first tee to 18th fairway on Sunday, it was this Titanium Tiger that we saw - and no-one else could live with him.

So robotically relentless was his brilliance that you found yourself rooting for his rivals, even though only one man was playing golf worthy of an Open win.

On the 18th green, all that changed.

Woods had barely smiled all day. There had been a touching of the brim of his cap on several holes, and a stern-faced acknowledgement of the galleries' adulation when putts rolled in.

But nothing prepared you for the sight of this previously unbreakable icon of self-control collapsing into the arms first of his caddie, then wife, then coach.

Those tears won him a new legion of fans among those for whom golf is about more than stats and swings.

More than that, it put his performance at Hoylake into an entirely new light.

Sergio Garcia
Garcia: baffled, bemused and beaten
Woods, you began to realise, is not a machine.

His ability to play precision golf while all around are crumbling is not some pre-ordained natural gift, or the happy side-effect of a life spent exclusively on practice ranges and putting greens.

He's aware of exactly the same pressures, hopes and fears as the rest of the field. He's just a hundred times better at dealing with it.

Sergio Garcia possessed almost as much teenage talent as Woods, and is capable of equally audacious shot-making.

But whereas Woods has won all 11 majors he has led going into the final day, Garcia hits turbulence every time he tries to pull out of the leader's slipstream.

While Tiger played with the implacable concentration of a meditating monk, Garcia was a man with ants in his pastel lemon pants.

Nicklaus - the only man to have won more majors than Woods - believes that it is this aspect of Tiger's game, more than anything else, that sets him apart from his peers.

Before it was easy to admire Woods, it wasn't all that easy to relate to him - now it might just be a little easier

"When it comes down to the end, it is about how strong you are, the faith you have in yourself," he says.

"Whatever you want to call it - mental strength, heart, competitive spirit - Tiger Woods has got it.

"More than that, I think Tiger is the best at this."

Whereas before it was easy to admire Woods, it wasn't all that easy to relate to him.

You could eulogise his incredible achievements, shake your head in disbelief at his shot-making, but it was hard to love him in the way that sports fans love the human failings of, say, a John Daly.

After Hoylake, it might just be a little easier.

The wider world has finally had a glimpse of the Tiger that O'Meara and Steve Williams always insisted existed.

Now we can see that he does have something in common with the rest of the human race, after all.

From Titanium Tiger to One-Of-Us Woods in one hole. Who would have believed it?



SEE ALSO
The Open day four photos
23 Jul 06 |  Golf
Sunday's Open quotes
23 Jul 06 |  Golf


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