British Open returns to site of Woods' out-of-sight win

St. Andrews to host event for first time since 2000, when winner made history

Golf

July 10, 2005|By Thomas Bonk | Thomas Bonk,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - The British Open returns this week to the scene of one of the biggest blowouts in major championship history, and that could be good news for the guy who did the demolition work.

Five years ago, Tiger Woods showed everyone that he had some new tricks for the Old Course, and the 129th British Open soon became a Tiger-by-the-numbers sort of thing. Check the accounting:

112 - The number of bunkers on the Old Course, all avoided by Woods.

19 - Woods' under-par total, a British Open record.

24, 6, 23 - Woods' age in years, months and days as he became the youngest player to have won all four majors.

4 - The others who won all four: Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan.

67-66-67-69 - Woods' scores for the four rounds.

8 - His margin of victory.

If Woods had, indeed, been playing a numbers game, his performance in the 2000 British Open reflected his playing at a high level that drew praise even from those who got run over in the process.

Woods, who trailed Ernie Els by a shot after the first round, led by three after two rounds and by six after three before winning by eight. It was the largest margin of victory in the British Open since 1913, when John Taylor beat Ted Ray by eight shots.

Woods' precision was extraordinary. In 72 holes, he had only three bogeys. It was his sixth victory of the year and his second major; he'd earlier won the U.S. Open.

His triumph on the Old Course completed a career grand slam for Woods and was a clear indication of his dominance - he had won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots.

Els said that when he stepped on the first tee on that Sunday, he knew he was playing for second.

"In one way, it was incredible to watch a guy play so much better than the rest of the world," he said. "And, in another way, it was tough to sit down and talk about him every time."

The weather all week was warm and dry, perfect Tiger conditions.

The 2000 recap:

First round

Thursday, July 20: It was a good day for scoring; 25 players shot under par. Woods had an early tee time and turned in a 5-under 67. Els, who finished hours later, birdied three of the last seven holes and took the lead with a 66.

From his vantage point, Els said he didn't think there would be a repeat of what had happened at Pebble Beach the month before.

"If he beats me by 15 now, there should be an inquiry," he said.

Woods matched par on the first eight holes but, beginning at the ninth, made five birdies in a seven-hole stretch.

He birdied the ninth with a 12-foot putt after getting close with a pitching wedge. He drove the green at the 379-yard 10th and two-putted from 50 feet for another birdie. He had another two-putt birdie at the 12th, this time from 30 feet, birdied the par-5 14th after hitting a driver and a No. 3-wood, then made another birdie at the 15th when his 9-iron got him within 10 feet and he made the putt.

Second round

Friday, July 21: Once again, the scores were low, with 39 players under par. No one went lower than Woods, though. He made six birdies in his round of 66 and saved par on the Road Hole from behind the green, increasing his number of consecutive holes in majors without a bogey to 62.

"Bogeys aren't good for your scorecard," he said.

Later, as he took his three-shot lead at the end of the day, Woods was asked if the tournament was already over.

"Well, I don't have the trophy sitting next to me," he replied.

The closest Woods came to a making a bogey was at the 17th, the Road Hole, where his second shot landed on a narrow patch of grass behind the green. He pulled out his 60-degree wedge, banked the ball off the slope of the bunker and rolled it back to within 8 feet of the pin.

He said that even though it wasn't that long a putt, it was tricky, breaking right to left, then left to right.

"A putt that short and having it break two ways is not exactly easy," he said.

Els could do no better than a 72 and fell to sixth, but David Toms had a 67 and moved into second.

Third round

Saturday, July 22: Woods finally made a bogey, on the second hole, his first since the third round of the U.S. Open - a streak of 63 holes. But he didn't flinch. David Duval fired a 66 and picked up only one shot on Woods, because Tiger's 67 increased his 54-hole lead to six shots over Duval and Thomas Bjorn.

Tom Lehman shot a 2-under 70 and was eight shots back.

"I'm just getting lapped," Lehman said.

Woods played the first seven holes at par, despite a three-putt bogey at No. 2, and Toms was only a shot back. But Woods got it back to two shots when his six-iron at the eighth landed 2 feet from the hole. And at the ninth, Woods rolled in a 15-footer for another birdie and had a three-shot lead again.

He birdied the 12th, almost driving the green, then chipping to 3 feet. Now, the lead was four, and he was 14-under par. A 20-foot birdie putt at the 13th brought his lead to five, and it became six when he two-putted from 40 feet at the par-5 14th - his fifth birdie in a seven-hole stretch.

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