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Although Tiger Woods has a long way to go to break all the records set by Jack Nicklaus, he already has one honor never achieved by Nicklaus, or Arnold Palmer -- Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Woods, whose record-setting victory in the Masters in April pushed golf from the sports pages to the front pages and triggered a financial explosion in the game, easily won over Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders in balloting by AP print and broadcast members.

"I thought I had a good year but I never expected this," Woods said about the voting announced Tuesday, his 22nd birthday.

Woods is the first golfer to be honored as Male Athlete of the Year by the AP since Lee Trevino in 1971 and is only the fifth golfer to receive the award since it was instituted in 1931. Woods joins Gene Sarazen (1932), Byron Nelson (1944-45), Ben Hogan (1953) and Trevino.

Woods finished with 231 points in the voting to 100 for Sanders. Evander Holyfield was third with 98 points.

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