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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Tiger shows his human side
By Alistair Magowan

Tiger Woods

In the build-up to this year's Masters, Tiger Woods was asked if he could get back to the form of 2000, when he held all four majors at once.

The answer was emphatic.

"I don't want to get back to 2000," insisted the American, who, despite his immense success, has spent much of the last year remodelling his swing.

"I want to become better than that. That is the idea of change - to improve."

It may seem odd to suggest it less than 24 hours after his fourth Masters win, but the debate over his form is very much alive.

Sure, Tiger may have changed, but has he improved?

How Tiger chipped in at the 16th

As he equalled a Masters record by stringing together seven consecutive birdies during the third round, no-one could deny they were watching Tiger in full flow.

But that was only half the story.

Over the course of his four rounds, he hit 75% of greens in regulation - a remarkable statistic when you consider he hit only 57% of fairways.

And therein lies the story of Sunday's dramatic play-off victory at Augusta.

Tiger may have won his first major since the 2002 US Open but the 29-year-old is not yet firing on all cylinders.

"Last year, I was just getting started with the changes," said the new world number one. "This year, I'm just putting the finishing touches to the changes."

His penchant for finding the pine cones at Augusta means there is perhaps more than a little fine-tuning still needed.

Though he played his final 30 holes in an inspirational 15 under par, the younger, more ruthless Tiger would never have closed with the two careless bogeys that allowed Chris DiMarco into a play-off.

Known as the greatest finisher in golf - Woods had never blown a final-round lead in a major and never squandered more than a one-stroke advantage on the last day of any tournament.

WOODS' MAJOR WINNING MARGINS
Tiger Woods and caddie Steve Williams celebrate on the 16th
1997 Masters: Wins by 12
1999 USPGA: Wins by one
2000 US Open: Wins by 15
2000 Open: Wins by eight
2000 USPGA: Wins play-off
2001 Masters: Wins by two
2002 Masters: Wins by three
2002 US Open: Wins by three
2005 Masters: Wins play-off

But whatever the arguments about his accuracy, his performance was five-star entertainment.

In his opening round, he hit a putt at the 13th hole which rolled off the green and into the water.

He followed that up with a drive which hit a tree just 100 yards up the fairway.

Then, after booming a drive which left him with a straight-forward wedge to the green at the first, he hit the base of the flag and saw his ball cannon into the bunker.

Woods eventually finished two over, but his was the round everyone was talking about.

Despite his genius, here was a man who, at times, was suffering like an ordinary club golfer.

Coming to the final round, there was more emotion from Woods.

With DiMarco chipping away at his lead, he chipped in brilliantly at the 16th to open up a two-shot lead again.

Close-ups of his face were a delight as he willed the chip in, then winced as it slowed, before bellowing "C'mon," as he and caddie Steve Williams worked out how to celebrate.

Then on the 17th tee, pumped full of adrenalin, he joked with the crowd as their shadows cast over his ball before cracking his tee shot onto the adjacent fairway.

After a good recovery, his chip onto the green hit a sprinkler, a schoolboy error that he rued with a smile.

Genius followed by ordinariness. This was a Tiger with flaws.

That DiMarco had his chance for straight-out victory with a chip that hit the flag on the 18th made it a compelling contest.

Despite his sizzling third-round 65 that turned a six-shot deficit into a three-shot lead, this was not a Tiger who steamrolled the opposition; this was a victory which owed as much to sheer guts as outrageous talent.

Tiger Woods
He is having a hard time right now but there's a big bear-hug waiting for him and I dedicate this to him
Tiger on his father

But it was a victory nonetheless and justification for all the hard work behind the scenes.

What made the win all the more emotional was the plight of Tiger's father, Earl.

Battling cancer and recovering from heart surgery, Earl was for the first time missing from Augusta's 18th green for the usual embrace with his son.

His absence hit Tiger hard, but not hard enough to knock him off his stride.

Now he has four Green Jackets hanging in his closet.

What price four more by the time his career is over?





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