Triumphant Tiger back on top

Last updated at 07:55 11 April 2005

Tiger Woods broke down after grabbing his fourth Masters and ninth major title at Augusta.

It had nothing to do with the 15-foot birdie putt that settled his play-off with American Ryder Cup team-mate Chris DiMarco.

Or the unforgettable chip-in three holes from the end of a pulsating 28-hole final day.

These were tears of sadness, not joy at ending nearly three years without a major.

"This is for Dad," said the 29-year-old after being helped back into his green jacket by last year's winner Phil Mickelson.

Earl Woods, who earmarked his son for superstardom from an early age, has had heart surgery and is battling cancer. For the first time at Augusta he was unable to be by the 18th green for their usual embrace.

"He's struggling," said Woods, now back as world number one and halfway towards Jack Nicklaus's 18-major record.

"His health has been pretty bad all year and it's one of the reasons why Doral (the tournament he won in Florida a month ago) was so big when I shot 63 on his birthday.

'Maybe it'll give him a little hope'

"Anyone that knows my dad, he's as stubborn as can be, so he's going to fight through it.

"He's hanging in there, but this was one of those moments where it wasn't so good and that's why it meant so much for me to be able to win this tournament.

"Maybe it'll give him a little hope, a little more fire to keep fighting. I can't wait to see him to give him a bear-hug."

The play-off putt was the shot that lifted Woods to joint third on all the all-time list of major winners, alongside Ben Hogan and Gary Player, with Walter Hagen the next in his sights on 11.

But the chip on the 16th was the most talked about shot.

Long and left off the tee, Woods remembered Davis Love a few years ago using the slope beyond the flag to hole out for a two, but would have been happy to save his par.

That looked likely as the ball tracked towards the cup before stopping on the lip. A second later, though, gravity pulled it in.

"Somehow an earthquake happened and it fell in," Woods said later.

"Under the circumstances it's one of the best shots I've ever hit because of the turning point. It looked pretty good, then really good, then how could it not go in, then it went in."

Far from over

Suddenly DiMarco, instead of having a putt to draw level, needed it to remain one behind and missed.

Two up with two to go and another Woods triumph looked certain. But it was far from over. A bad drive and bad chip on the 17th brought a bogey, then a horrid approach to the last brought another - and DiMarco almost won when his chip hit the hole.

Tied on the 12-under-par mark of 276, seven clear of Masters debutant Luke Donald and US Open champion Retief Goosen, the play-off began on the 18th for the first time.

DiMarco played it almost identically to the way he had just before, but Woods did better.

A better drive was followed by a towering eight-iron to 15 feet and after DiMarco had chipped dead he stepped up and holed a very similar putt to the one Mickelson made for victory.

On each of the nine times Woods has led going into the final round of a major he has won every one. He has come out on top in his last seven play-offs.

Watch the birdies

"To play as poorly as I did on 17 and 18, then have a chance in a play-off and hit two of the best shots I hit all week was pretty sweet," he added.

Sweet too was what happened at the start of the day - four birdies at the start of the back nine in the delayed third round to make a record-equalling seven in a row.

Woods was nine-under for the round with five to play and a first-ever major 62 was there for the taking.

Although he bogeyed the next two holes and had to settle for a 65, he had turned a four-stroke deficit into a three-stroke lead.

It speaks volumes for DiMarco that, having come home in 41, he went out again four hours later and gave Woods such a battle.

He was four behind on the ninth green, but when he birdied the 15th he was level.

Another play-off loss

As DiMarco was after 72 holes - and as he was after 72 holes of the US PGA championship last August.

Losing two successive play-offs in majors has happened only twice before. To Craig Woods over 70 years ago and to Tom Watson in 1978-79.

DiMarco now joins Colin Montgomerie as the only two players to lose two play-offs without winning a major. At 36 the American is the younger by five years. But the bad news for him is that Woods is seven years younger than him and gunning for more.

After the so-called Tiger Slam of all four majors spread across 2000 and 2001, many will feel he can do a Grand Slam this season.

Vijay Singh, fifth at Augusta, Mickelson (10th) and Ernie Els (47th) may bounce back for a 'Fab Four' reunion in June's US Open at Pinehurst.

Or maybe it will be third time lucky for DiMarco there.

"Twelve-under is usually good enough to win," said DiMarco.

"I just was playing against Tiger Woods."