MEDINAH, Ill. - An emotional wreck at Hoylake, a machine at Medinah. Tiger Woods went from brown fairways to lush greens, from pure irons to perfect putting, from silver claret jug to shiny Wanamaker Trophy. For all those changes this much stayed very much the same:
Woods overwhelmed his competition again Sunday, closing with a 4-under 68 for a five-shot victory in the PGA Championship, giving him 12 career majors and leaving only Jack Nicklaus and his 18 titles in his way.
It started with a 10-foot birdie on the first hole to take the lead. It ended with a tap-in for par, and a celebration so routine that Woods merely plucked the ball from the cup, stuck it in his pocket, quickly raised both fists and walked off the green with a smile that never left his face.
No sweat, either.
One month after his victory at the British Open, where he sobbed on his caddie's shoulder while remembering his late father, Woods became the first player in history go consecutive years winning at least two majors.
"It wasn't the same as Hoylake, maybe just because I was in contention to win a major after my dad passed," Woods said. "It was just a totally different feeling."
But there was no mistaking the result.
Woods built a four-shot lead at the turn and might have broken his scoring record at the PGA Championship if he had been pushed. Instead, he played for the middle of the green and lagged his putts, finishing at 18-under 270.
Along the way, his competition could do nothing but watch.
"He's just too good," said Shaun Micheel, who closed with a 69 and won the battle for second place. "Unless you're at the top of your game, you just can't play with him."
Asked about his father, who died of cancer in May, Woods offered a warm smile and a wisecrack about Pop's first lesson.
"I kept saying all day, 'Just putt to the picture.' That's how I first learned how to putt," Woods said. "He actually knew what he was talking about."
That club was largely responsible for this major. Along with an opening birdie, Woods added 40-foot birdie putts on Nos. 6 and 8, sweeping his putter to sunny skies with his head down as he walked to the hole.
Woods became the first player to win the PGA Championship twice on the same course. He outlasted Sergio Garcia at Medinah in 1999, the start of one of the most dominant stretches in golf.
This was his third straight victory, and could signal another big run.
"That, and the experience of seven years," Woods said. "Yeah, I feel like things are pretty darn good right now."
So much for those worries about Woods after he missed the cut at the U.S. Open. He now has won his last three tournaments, the first time he has done that in five years. He now is 12-0 when his name is atop the leaderboard going into the last round of a major.
"Jack Nicklaus, he's the only other guy I've ever seen who looks more comfortable leading on the back nine of a major than playing the first hole of a tournament," Chris DiMarco said. "And that's pretty scary. He just puts the hammer down."
Nicklaus was home in North Palm Beach, Fla., watching his grandchildren play golf, but he saw enough of the final round on television to appreciate how easy Woods made it look.
"He's that good," Nicklaus said in an e-mail. "The guy is playing just great golf, terrific golf. From what I saw, he certainly was in total command."
Nicklaus won his 18 majors over 25 years. Woods has won 12 in his first 10 years on the PGA Tour, and there doesn't appear to be anyone capable of stopping him.
Luke Donald was tied for the lead going into the final round at Medinah and didn't make a single birdie, closing with a 74 to finish in a tie for third at 12-under 276 with Adam Scott (67) and Garcia (70).
"Tiger just doesn't back up," said Steve Stricker, who made a late bid for the Ryder Cup. "He doesn't let anybody get close to him, especially in the last round."
So dominant was this performance that Woods made only three bogeys the entire week, including a harmless one on the par-3 17th hole over Lake Kadijah when he was playing it safe. All that cost him was the scoring record in relation to par. He settled for 18 under, the same score he posted at Valhalla in 2000.
It was the fifth major that Woods won by at least five shots. He now has won his 12 majors by a combined 56 shots, while Nicklaus won his 18 majors by 44 shots.
That Woods has never lost a 54-hole lead in a major was enough to make some believe it was due to happen, especially on a soft course yielding low scores and a strong cast of contenders behind him.
He went 10 years before missing a cut in a major. Would this be the one he blew in the final round?
U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy found water on the second hole and three-putted from 8 feet on No. 3 to disappear. Garcia chunked a wedge and made bogey on the par-5 seventh to stall his momentum. Mike Weir got within one shot of Woods at No. 5, but he couldn't keep up the pace and fell back to a 73.
Donald was in contention at a major for the first time, but not for long.
They were tied atop the leaderboard and in the wardrobe department - both wore a red shirt - as thousands crammed in around the putting green, the first tee and down both sides of the fairway. Donald had equal support, not only from winning an NCAA title at Northwestern, but sticking around to make Chicago his home.
Cheers of "Luuuuuuke" followed him toward the first tee, but they faded quickly. Woods hit 7-iron into 10 feet, and kept his head so still over his birdie putt that he didn't look up until it was inches from dropping in.
No one caught him the rest of the day.
Donald caught a bad break when his ball landed in a muddy divot on No. 4, leading to his first bogey in 40 holes. He missed a 5-foot birdie on the par-5 fifth, and that effectively ended his tournament.
The only drama left was the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and that also turned into a snoozer.
Tim Herron needed a two-way tie for seventh and was looking good with two birdies on his first five holes, but he followed that with two straight bogeys and never recovered, shooting 73. Stricker made a late surge, needing to finish third. He got as high as a tie for sixth until the birdies dried up, he finished with a bogey for a 69 and tied for seventh.
Davis Love III finished with three straight bogeys, completing a 73-76 weekend and is not likely to be picked.
The top 10 players who earned a spot on the team were Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Chad Campbell, DiMarco, Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich.
Tom Lehman will make his two captain's picks Monday morning, with Stewart Cink likely to be one of them. Cink was 12th in the standings and closed with a 69 while paired with vice captain Corey Pavin. Another player under consideration is Lucas Glover, who was 14th in the standings and shot 72 on Sunday and tied for 46th.