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Tiger takes the suspense out of everything

TULSA, Okla. - The stars were aligned for Tiger Woods to win the final major of the year.

So were the flags.

It's not like Woods needed any help at the PGA Championship. He had a three-shot lead going into the final round and a history of never losing any tournament when the margin was more than one.

But as he rapped the last of his practice putts Sunday, his Kiwi caddie noticed the flags atop the bleachers that represented the countries of every player at Southern Hills. They had been fluttering in the breeze, then suddenly went limp except for two of them.

One was the United States, the other New Zealand.

'Now that's what I call an omen,' Steve Williams said.

Williams turned out to be right about the PGA Championship. There were some hairy moments for Woods, such as his three-putt on the 14th green that trimmed his lead to one shot as Woody Austin and Ernie Els made a spirited run to catch him. Woods, however, showed why he is the best clutch putter in golf with a 10-footer on the next hole that sent him to his 13th major.

But that's not the only thing Woods locked up.

Woods' season is not over, but it sure felt that way as he hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy, the heaviest prize among the four majors.

All that remains for him is the conclusion of the FedEx Cup, the Presidents Cup, a trip to Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and his year-end Target World Challenge. All that figures to do is pad his bank account and pour money into his Tiger Woods Learning Center.

It might also provide a few more pretty photo ops for Woods, wife Elin and 2-month-old Sam Alexis.

No matter what happens, the year already belongs to Woods.

He already has won five times on the PGA Tour - no one else has won more than twice - and a major championship for the third straight season, pushing his total to 13 and inching him closer to the 18 professional majors won by Jack Nicklaus. Even if someone sweeps the FedEx Cup events, Woods is virtually a lock to win the points-based PGA of America award.

His victory Sunday was good news for the PGA of America - can you imagine the PGA Grand Slam of Golf being contested by Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, Padraig Harrington and Woody Austin? - and not so good for the PGA Tour.

It's hard to imagine the winner of the FedEx Cup trumping anything Woods has done in the traditional golf season. Along with winning the PGA Championship, he was runner-up at the Masters and the U.S. Open, and he was the only player who finished under par in the four majors, one of the toughest collections of courses in some time.

Woods also won two World Golf Championships, and the Wachovia Championship was the toughest field of any regular tour event.

All indications are that Woods will skip the first playoff event next week in New York. That won't kill the FedEx Cup, but it certainly will delay the interest until round two outside Boston.

Then again, Woods has always measured his year by the majors.

'Any time you win a major championship in the year, it's always going to be a great year,' he said. 'And this certainly is.'

Woods doesn't stop playing after the PGA Championship, but he made it clear five years ago that majors are what matters. It was a week before the Ryder Cup, at a WGC event in Ireland, when he switched from Titleist to Nike irons.

He was asked why he chose that week to switch clubs.

'Off the record?' he said. 'Because the majors are over.'

Then he was asked for a comment on the record. Woods paused and smiled.

'Because the majors are over.'