Woods Wins and Weeps at the British Open

An emotional Tiger Woods won the British Open tournament at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Sunday — his first victory since his father died from cancer in May, and his 11th major title. The win came after Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open in June.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Tiger Woods has won his second consecutive British Open title. He had a two-shot victory yesterday over Chris DiMarco at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.

It's the 11th major championship for Tiger Woods. Joining us now is commentator John Feinstein. Good morning, John.

Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN (Author, Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The final margin was two shots, but this really looked like the dominant Tiger Woods of old.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: It really did look like the dominant Tiger Woods of old in a golf sense in that he putted superbly. It was a golf course where he didn't need to use his driver because the weather was dry and hot; and the golf course was running so that he didn't need his driver, which always helps him, because that's often it's his Achilles heel.

But in terms of the Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods the human being, it was something we hadn't seen very often. It was a very emotional Tiger Woods. His dad died, as all golf fans know, on May the 3rd, and this was his first victory since his father's death. And when the last putt went in the hole, basically his emotions exploded.

And that was something that I don't think people had seen before from Tiger Woods. And clearly he was holding a lot in throughout the last round yesterday until the last putt went in the hole.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. You know, those 11 major titles, John, please put that, for us, in historical perspective.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, it's very simple. Right now, the only person who's ahead of him is Jack Nicklaus, with 18 major titles, which once was one of those records people thought would never be broken. Tiger is now tied for second place with the great Walter Hagen in professional major titles won, and he's only 30 years old.

Nicholas was 32 when he won his 11th major, just to give you a little time continuum there, and most people think - I certainly think - that he will ultimately break Jack Nicklaus' record because he is as focused an athlete as any of us have seen in our lifetimes.

MONTAGNE: And Chris DiMarco, he didn't win, but he was also quite a remarkable story this last week.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: He really was. I mean, with all the talk the last few months about Earl Woods' death and what that meant to Tiger, Chris DiMarco's mother died very suddenly on the Fourth of July of a heart attack at the age of 58. And essentially he decided to play the British Open because it was his mother who drove him to all his junior golf tournaments and it was his mother who was his inspiration when he was a kid, the way Earl Woods was Tiger's inspiration.

And Chris has now been a runner-up three times in majors, twice to Tiger Woods. Yesterday's performance, as far as I was concerned, was as amazing in its own way as anything Tiger did over the weekend for Chris.

MONTAGNE: And let's move on for a moment to some other names. Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, challenged. Phil Mickelson did not. How did...

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Right. Right. Phil Mickelson has still got a hangover from the U.S. Open when he blew it on the 18th hole with that awful double bogey when he had a one-shot lead. And who knows if he will recover mentally from that gaffe. Ernie Els is getting better after knee surgery. His performance was encouraging.

You know, Renee, its interesting, seven years ago we all thought Sergio Garcia was going to be Tiger Woods' big challenger when he was 19 and almost won the PGA. Here we are seven years later: he still hasn't won a major. And every time he has to look Tiger in the eye on a Sunday - he played with him yesterday - he just hasn't been up to it. You wonder if/when Sergio Garcia will become a champion.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's get back to Tiger Woods as a last question. Of all his qualities as a player, is there one that really stands out for you?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: His mental strength. I mean, he can hit the golf ball huge distances. He's a great putter. But he's the most mentally strong athlete I've ever seen. The tougher it gets out there, the better Tiger Woods seems to play.

MONTAGNE: Thanks, John.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein, who is author of Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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