The Masters
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Tiger Woods claims third Masters jacket
Rivals fall by the wayside on Sunday
Poor iron play costs Goosen
Mickelson fails again to make Sunday challenge
Maruyama only player to tame Sunday Augusta

Tiger Woods claims third Masters jacket

One by one, the best golfers in the world stepped aside.

It was Sunday at the Masters, and Tiger Woods was in the lead.

``After the front nine, I knew it was all over for me,'' U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen said.

He wasn't alone.

Woods won his third green jacket by proving he was far more daunting than a toughened up, redesigned Augusta National. He seized control with an early burst of birdies and watched his rivals crash in a desperate and reckless attempt to catch him.

The result was another march into history, with Woods becoming only the third player to win back-to-back titles.

``I think we're going to wear this jacket out putting it on you before your career is over,'' Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson said as he slipped the size 42 long over Woods' shoulders.

It was Johnson who ordered the biggest renovation in club history.

It was the 26-year-old Woods who wore everyone out.

Phil Mickelson muttered through clenched teeth when his par putt slipped below the hole on No. 7. Ernie Els took a lonely walk through the trees left of the 13th fairway, shoulders slumped and head down. Vijay Singh covered his head with his hands when his ball bounded into a creek on the same hole.

Woods had the look of a champion all day.

He closed with a 1-under 71 to claim a three-stroke victory over Goosen, who started the final round tied with Woods and spent most of the day playing for second.

``You just know Tiger is not going to make any big mistakes,'' Goosen said.

Woods walked up the 18th fairway in a victory parade, tugging on the brim of his cap to acknowledge the applause. When he tapped in for par a score of 12-under 276, he hugged his parents, both decked out in red shirts -- the color he wears for every final round.

``It's awfully special,'' Woods said. ``For some reason, this seemed a little bit harder. Maybe cause we played 26 holes yesterday. I'm getting just a little bit older.''

So is this story line.

``We've been over this before,'' Thomas Bjorn said when asked if anyone could catch Woods. ``This being the Masters, and him being up there, it obviously puts you under a bit of pressure.''

Woods became the first player to repeat as Masters champion since Nick Faldo in 1990. Jack Nicklaus was the only other, in 1965-66, and Woods' victory put him halfway to Nicklaus' mark of six Masters.

``Give him a couple of more years, and I think Tiger will be greater than even Jack Nicklaus,'' Goosen said.

Last year, Woods battled Mickelson and David Duval down the stretch to win the Masters and become the first player to sweep the four professional majors.

Another tight finish loomed, with six of the top seven players in the world all poised to win the Masters. By the end of the day, they were scratching their heads, trying to figure out what they could do -- if anything -- to tame Tiger.

``We were all trying to make something happen to catch Tiger, because we knew he wasn't going to falter,'' said Mickelson, who closed with a 71 to finish third, his 39th major and still regarded as the best to never win one.

Els tried to make a charge, and wound up with an 8 by hitting into the trees and into the creek on the par-5 13th.

Singh, the former Masters and PGA champion, got as close as two strokes before he hit into a creek, into the crowd, into the trees. That was before he reached No. 15, where it really got ugly. Singh hit two wedges into the water and made 9.

``That was the end of that,'' he said.

It was over long before.

``I was kind of surprised, no doubt about it,'' Woods said about no one making a run. ``But that doesn't deter me from my concentration.''

Woods won his seventh professional major, joining a list that includes Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer, who made this Masters his 48th and last.

He became only the third player since the Masters began in 1934 to win a major four years in a row. Nicklaus (1970-73) and Tom Watson (1980-83) also did it.

More than anything, Woods reminded people how tough he is in the final round. He is 23-2 when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

Woods earned $1,008,000 for his 31st career victory, and he became the first two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year.

Goosen didn't make a birdie until the 15th hole, but moved into second when everyone else fell apart. The South African closed with a 74 and finished at 279.

``I was asking one of the officials, do I get the green pants for finishing second?'' Goosen said.

Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal started five strokes back and was never in the hunt. He felt no pressure and made no big mistakes, finishing with a 71 to take fourth place at 281.

It was only the second time this year that Woods failed to break 70 in the final round, but Augusta National finally showed some bite. Shigeki Maruyama of Japan had a 67 and was the only player to break 70.

Mickelson, playing in the group in front of Woods, made an early statement by hitting a 9-iron out of the fairway bunker into 14 inches on the first hole for birdie, then making another birdie on No. 2. Just like that, he was only two strokes behind.

Els also birdied the first two holes, poised to make a charge.

Then, poof!

Woods made them all disappear.

He pitched up the slope to 6 feet on No. 2 and made birdie, then spun back his approach to 10 feet on No. 3 and made that for another birdie.

After a bogey on No. 5, only his second in 44 holes, Woods was staring at another when he went over the green on the par-3 sixth.

Would he buckle? No chance. Woods' chip from 20 feet went straight into the cup, and he raised his wedge in mild celebration. There was no fist pump, no smiles, just another methodical day of work at the Masters.

All the emotion came from everyone else. Even the best of the rest realized that Woods wins most of his tournaments by letting everyone else fall apart.

``I tried,'' Els said. ``We all tried.''

Against Woods, especially at Augusta, that isn't enough.