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Killer Instinct
Rick Reilly
April 22, 2002
With a second straight Masters title in his sights, Tiger Woods showed no mercy as he rolled to his seventh major championship
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April 22, 2002

Killer Instinct

With a second straight Masters title in his sights, Tiger Woods showed no mercy as he rolled to his seventh major championship

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Charles Barkley was right. The changes were racist. Not a single Asian player made it into the top 10. "The days of Larry Mize and Ben Crenshaw winning this thing are over," said Jeff Sluman, himself rather a short hitter.

Five years ago, after Woods's roundhouse win, Jesper Parnevik said, "Unless they build Tiger tees about 50 yards back, he's going to win the next 20 of these." Well, they just did, and he won anyway.

"You want to Tigerproof a course?" Earl Woods was saying while waiting for his son to try on another green jacket. "Move the tee box to the ladies' tee. Eliminate the rough completely. Cut the greens to 8 or 9 [on the stimpmeter]. And I'll guarantee you, Tiger won't win. But this course plays right into his hands."

It was chilling how resolutely his son won last week, as if it were just something to check off on a sheet, an item on a grocery list.

O.K. Let's see.... One hundred million dollar endorsement deal? Check.... Swedish bikini-model girlfriend (former Parnevik nanny Elin Nordegren)? Check.... Win third Masters? Check.

Really, he won it on Saturday with a boatload of hard work. He woke at 4:30 a.m., trailing Singh by six shots, played 26 rain-delayed holes in eight under and by nightfall had tied with Goosen for the lead at 11 under. Twenty-four times in his PGA Tour career Woods had held or shared a lead going into the fourth round. Twenty-two times he had closed the deal. Even Goosen's home country of South Africa must not have liked his chances. It didn't send a single reporter.

It was over so quickly. CBS came on an hour early to beat a predicted storm, but if you didn't know that, you missed the executions entirely. The leaders teed off at 2:10. By 2:21 Goosen had three-putted number 1, and Woods had a lead between his choppers he would never let go. By 2:36 Tiger had birdied number 2 out of a greenside bunker, Goosen missed an easy birdie and Woods had a two-shot lead. By 3 p.m. it was a three-shot lead after Woods hit an ungodly wedge on number 3 for a kick-in birdie. Then came the chilling chip-in at 6, and the rest of it was just safe sides of fairways and fats of greens. After the requisite drive up the gnat's ass on 18, there was nothing left to worry about but warming up the Citation 10.

It had all the suspense of a good floss. Maybe less. Whereas Tiger's first Masters was about the emotion of becoming the first black man to win at snow-white Augusta and the second was about the glory of becoming the first man ever to win four majors in a row, the third seemed just a highway stop to gas up, get sandwiches and beat on ceaselessly toward Greatest Ever.

If Woods can win majors at this pace-seven every six years—until he's 40, he would have 21, beating Nicklaus by three. And Nicklaus won three after 40. Then again, the year is young.

You think you could win all four in one year this time? somebody asked Woods afterward.

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