Tiger's Open: par excellence

Woods shatters field, records in taking U.S. Open by 15 shots

Els: `awesome to watch'

12-under finish gives him 3rd major at 24

U.S. Open

June 19, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Tiger Woods chased history yesterday at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. He kept it in his sights throughout the first nine holes in the final round of the 100th U.S. Open.

Shortly thereafter, Woods caught it, passed it and obliterated nearly every record he was pursuing. Like the rest of the field who meekly got out of his way, history proved no match for the world's greatest player.

In winning his first Open title by a whopping 15 shots for the third major championship of his remarkable four-year career, Woods tore out the pages from record books, some of which had been in there for more than a century.

In doing so, he either erased or joined a list of legendary players that included everyone from Old Tom Morris to the man whom he has used as his personal standard since he was a child - Jack Nicklaus.

After starting slowly with eight straight pars, Woods made four birdies in a stretch of five holes to finish the round with a 4-under-par 67 and a four-round total of 12-under 272. As a result, Woods set or tied a number of Open and major championship records.

His margin of victory not only eclipsed the modern-record of 12 strokes he set in winning the 1997 Masters, it also broke a 138-year-old mark of 13 set by Morris in the 1862 British Open. It was also one stroke shy of the PGA's all-time record.

Woods, 24, became only the second player in history to have won three major titles at his age - Nicklaus was the first. His score in relation to par shattered the previous record of 8-under shared by five players, including Nicklaus and Ben Hogan.

He became the first player in the Open to finish in double digits under par. His overall score also tied the lowest in an Open, joining four-time Open champion Nicklaus and two-time Open champion Lee Janzen. He is now the only player in history to have won the U.S. Junior, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open.

"To be honest with you, I think you need to let time go on a little bit for all of us to understand what transpired," Woods said. "Even when I won the Masters in '97, it took me two or three years to understand what I had done.

"When you're playing in a tournament, you're just trying to win. All the records are great, but you don't pay attention to that. You pay attention to the fact that I got my green coat [at the Masters] and here I got the trophy."

Woods won this tournament on the tees, where he rarely strayed from the fairways with his drives and on the greens, where he did not three-putt the entire week and made several putts to save par, including one yesterday from 10 feet on the par-4 16th hole.

What also helped Woods was his temperament. Except for a couple of choice expletives Woods directed at an errant drive on Saturday, he was in total control of his emotions as well as his game.

"I've had two great weeks in a major championship, but I told Stevie [Williams, his caddie] walking up 18, there comes a point in time when you feel tranquil, when you feel calm, you feel at ease with yourself," he said. "Those two weeks, I felt very at ease with myself."

It also helps when you come into the final round with a nine-shot lead, as he did at Augusta three years ago, or leading by 10, as he did yesterday.

Coming into the round with a double-digit lead over two-time Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa - that, too, was a record for an Open - Woods never faltered.

Without any wind on a gorgeous afternoon - in contrast to the gale-force conditions that pummeled the Monterey Peninsula in the final round of the Open here eight years ago - the course was at his mercy.

The assault began after Woods had narrowly missed several birdie putts within 15 on the front nine.

Starting with a 15-footer for birdie on the par-4 10th hole, Woods made a downhill 18-footer for birdie on the par-3 12th and then hit his sand wedge approach from the rough to within three inches on the par-4 13th. On the par-5 14th, he laid up with his second shot and then hit his third to within eight feet, making that birdie putt as well.

But the putt that Woods seemed proudest of came on the par-4 16th hole. His lead at the time was a dozen shots, but Woods remembered something he had told himself coming into the day.

"I guess the highest point probably was making that par putt on 16," said Woods, who punched the air and then banged fists with Williams, after the 10-foot putt dropped. "I didn't want to make a bogey today. I figured that if I made no bogeys today, they would have to shoot a great number."

Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain had shot 2-under 33 on the front, but was 2-over 38 on the back to finish at even-par 71. Jimenez has the dubious distinction, along with Els, to go into the record books as the players Woods beat. Els, who played in the final twosome with Woods, shot 1-over-par 72.

It was also interesting to hear their reactions to Woods, considering what they had said earlier in the week

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