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this palpable love between father and son brought the tournament full circle, because over the first two rounds the Nicklaus family had provided the emotional center. Jack had said last year that 2004 might be his last Masters, but his semigoodbye was overshadowed by Arnold Palmer's farewell. Nicklaus already was pondering whether to return this year when a family tragedy propelled him back to Augusta. On March 1 his 17-month-old grandson, Jake, drowned in a hot tub, and Jack and his grieving son Steve withdrew to the place where they are most comfortable showing their feelings, the golf course. A by-product of these 18-hole therapy sessions was that the old man felt his game coming back, and when Steve suggested that one more Masters would be a good diversion for the Nicklaus clan, Jack was happy to oblige.
On a layout that has grown much too long for a 65-year-old, Nicklaus shot a very respectable 77-76 and thrilled the crowd by stiffing a six-iron on his last hole on Saturday. Tears streamed down the great man's face as he took the final steps of his 45-year journey at Augusta.
Nicklaus will be at St. Andrews in July for another final hurrah on the Old Course, where he won two British Opens. Woods, too, will have good vibes when he arrives at the home of golf. At the 2000 British Open he lapped the field, winning by eight strokes, setting a tournament scoring record (19 under) and failing to hit into a single bunker over 72 holes. Woods will be the prohibitive favorite, and he can arrive with Grand Slam dreams if he first prevails in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where he tied for third in 1999. With its turtleback greens, No. 2 is a shotmaker's delight that puts a premium on a creative short game. Sounds a bit like Augusta National, no?
On Sunday evening Woods deflected talk of a Grand Slam run. His mind was elsewhere. At the green jacket ceremony he told a hushed crowd, "This win is not for me, it's for my dad. It's been a difficult year, he's not doing very well. He made the trek to Augusta, but he was unable to come out and enjoy this." He stopped to gather himself.
"This is for Dad," Woods said, and now the tears were coming fast and furious, and he was gasping for breath. "Every year I've been lucky enough to win this tournament, my dad has been there to give me a hug. I can't wait to get back to the house and give him a big bear hug."
This was the logical end to a topsy-turvy day. After nearly giving away the Masters, Woods couldn't help but grin on the 72nd green. Now, in victory, he was crying when he should have been smiling again. ?
One Plus Three
FOR FIVE SEASONS Tiger Woods (left) has battled swing troubles and challenges to his spot atop the golf world from the other members of the sport's Big Four: Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh. While Woods reasserted his primacy with his Masters win on Sunday, his numbers since the beginning of the 2001 PGA Tour underscore his continuing dominance, however uneasy.
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