Woods beats DiMarco to win 2005 Masters

When Woods won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes, he drove the ball so far with his prodigious physical gifts it seemed as if he were playing a shorter, easier course than everybody else. Wielding drivers with heads the size of toasters and composite shafts as long as fishing rods, the competition started closing the gap. Meanwhile, as late as 2003 Woods was still clinging to a retro 265cc driver with a 43.5-inch steel shaft, opting for precision over raw power. The oversized driver Woods went to six months ago helped restore some of his old distance advantage, and in January he took another leap forward by going to a hot new four-piece ball.

With his new swing and new tools Woods simply overwhelmed Augusta National last week, even though since 2001 it has been retrofitted with 305 yards of added length, expanded bunker complexes and a forest of new trees. After opening with a hard-luck 74 that put him seven strokes behind DiMarco, Woods got back in the hunt with a second-round 66, with all but one of the holes being played on Saturday because of rain delays on Thursday and Friday. Comparing the clubs he hit to various greens during the second round with those DiMarco used highlights what a different game Woods plays compared with an average-length hitter. On the 575-yard par-5 2nd hole Woods ripped a four-iron pin-high, while DiMarco was well short of the green with a three-wood. On the 490-yard 11th hole, the portal to Amen Corner, Woods played a pitching wedge, DiMarco a three-iron. At the 500-yard par-5 15th Woods bashed a drive to the bottom of the hill and had only a nine-iron in, leading to another two-putt birdie; DiMarco missed the green with a two-iron.

When the third round commenced late Saturday afternoon, Woods and DiMarco continued to attack the softened course. Tiger bashed his way around the front nine in 31 before darkness halted play, giving him 12 birdies in 26 holes for the day and drawing him within four strokes of the precise DiMarco, who was riding a streak of 44 consecutive holes without a bogey. As scintillating as the golf may have been to that point, though, what really had Augusta buzzing on Saturday was a juicy spat between Singh and Mickelson that had been brewing for days.

for the first three rounds Mickelson played in the group directly in front of Singh. As Lefty was leaving the 13th tee on Friday, a tournament official approached him and asked to examine the bottom of his shoes. According to Will Nicholson, the chairman of the Masters competition committee, "A player (had) said that there were some spike marks on the 12th green, and to the best of their knowledge, they were caused by Phil Mickelson."

While about two thirds of the Masters field used soft spikes, Mickelson went with old-school metal, and for extra traction in the sloppy conditions he employed spikes that were a legal eight millimeters in length instead of the standard six. Back on the 13th tee the Masters official uncovered nothing untoward with Mickelson's spikes, and Spikegate seemed over. But after thunderstorms stopped play on Friday, Mickelson and Singh retreated to the clubhouse, to a claustrophobic upstairs locker room reserved for past champions. At some point Singh began yapping to a table of other players about his irritation in having to navigate Mickelson's spike marks, and overhearing this, Mickelson approached the big Fijian.

According to multiple sources, Mickelson said he felt it was disrespectful for Singh to have tattled to tournament officials rather than approaching him directly. Singh was dismissive in response, and the two men continued to jaw at each other, with the vibe becoming so intense that one past champ later said he considered stepping between the two players. The confrontation eventually was defused without fisticuffs, but Mickelson later issued a sharply worded statement in which he fingered Singh as the whistleblower and added, "I was extremely distracted and would have appreciated if it would have been handled differently."

Proving that the golf gods have a sense of humor, Mickelson's and Singh's scores left them paired for the final round. They shook hands on the 1st tee and then spent the next four hours studiously ignoring each other. Neither would finish within eight shots of Woods, who began the final 18 with a three-stroke lead, thanks to his stunning rally when the third round recommenced on Sunday morning.

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