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Tiger wins

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The challenge finally arrived for Tiger Woods. All that did was bring out a passion rarely seen, and a performance that might rank among his best.

In a fitting conclusion to perhaps the greatest summer of golf, Woods birdied the last two holes in regulation and won the PGA Championship in a playoff over Bob May, becoming the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in one year.

This wasn't a runaway like the

U.S. and British Opens. Not with the steely determination in his eyes. Not with sweat pouring down the side of his face. Not the way he charged after putts as they fell into the cup, and pumped his fists like never before.

The thrills didn't end until May, the most unlikely of challengers, nearly holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the three-hole playoff. Woods blasted out of the bunker to 2 feet, and made the putt for par.

It was the easiest shot he had all afternoon Sunday.

Woods now has won four of the last five majors, his first in a playoff. By winning at Valhalla Golf Club, he became the first player to repeat as PGA champion since Denny Shute in 1937, and the first since it went to stroke play in 1958. Woods not only won the PGA, he now holds the scoring record in relation to par in every major championship, an 18-under 270 that allowed him to get into the playoff.

Last month at St. Andrews, the 24-year-old Woods became the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam, with an eight-stroke victory. In June, he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes.

This was no less impressive.

"The fireworks started on the back nine," Woods said. "This is probably one of the greatest duels I've ever had in my life. Hats off to Bob. He played his heart out."

May challenged Woods like no one else did in the last two majors, taking the lead with a two-shot swing on the second hole and never giving it up until the end.

"I think I have a big heart," said May, who closed with a 6-under 66. "People weren't expecting me to do what I did. I think I proved to them that I can play golf."

Tied with Woods going to the 72nd hole, May holed an 18-foot birdie putt from the fringe that put Woods in a perilous situation — a 6-foot birdie putt to get into the playoff. It curled in on the left side, Woods punching his fist and let out a roar.

Woods took a one-stroke lead on the first playoff hole, No. 16, but not until after May showed he wasn't going away, hitting a 70-yard chip from the rough that stopped inches from the cup. Woods tracked his 25-foot birdie putt, trotting after it and pointing at the ball as it dropped for birdie.

Both players made nice par saves on the 17th, setting the stage for even more drama on the 18th.

Woods hit his drive well to the left, into a tree and bouncing up a cart path. He hit his approach into the left rough, and his third shot into a bunker. But May failed to capitalize. He hit across the fairway into more rough, and his approach caught the ridge on the horseshoe-shaped 18th green, some 40 feet away.

After Woods hit out of the bunker to 2 feet, May's only hope was to make a putt that was as long as his chances.

It almost went in.

But this year — this game — belongs to Woods. He closed with a 67, his 15th consecutive round at par or better in the majors. He has had at least a share of the lead in 11 of the last 12 rounds in the majors, unprecedented domination.

Hogan won the Masters, U.S. and British Opens in 1953. He could not play in the PGA because his legs were too battered from a car accident, and the PGA was held during the same week as British Open qualifying that year.

Hogan never won another major. Woods is still getting warmed up.