Saturday, June 6th, 2015
“This is a lonely sport. The manager isn’t going to come in and correct things by bringing in a lefty or a righty. You just have to deal with it.” – Tiger Woods after his career-worse 85
Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, at a course where he has won five times (once three times in a row and once by a staggering seven strokes), shoots a whopping 85. The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, OH has been kind to him in the past, but not this weekend. This leaves Tiger fans (those that are still left) asking themselves: what in the world happened? He just shot an 85…22 (22!) shots worse than his career best on the same course. Remember when Tiger won this tournament three times in a row? And in the midst of that trifecta he won that major at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes? Well, yes, most of us do remember, how could we forget?
Woods’ worst round ever as a professional comes 5466 days after his best performance as a professional – the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Woods overcomes the typical conditions the USGA puts together at the championship, in addition to treacherous weather. He wins, dominates the tournament by a record 15-strokes, a record that won’t be broken anytime soon. Again, we find ourselves asking: what happened to this Tiger?
Wednesday, June 14, 2000
“I want to make sure my life is special while I’m here. You will be remembered, but will you be missed?” – Paul Azinger, close friend of the late Payne Stewart
The event begins on a sorrow note. It is the first U.S. Open without Payne Stewart, the 1999 champion. Stewart was killed in an airplane crash about eight months prior. Before the start of the tournament, numerous golfers give Stewart a “21-tee salute” sending their golf balls into the Pacific Ocean. Woods was not one of them. Not meaning to be disrespectful or arrogant, Woods begins a practice round with only his caddy, Steve Williams, walking with him. When asked why he was not in attendance, Woods’ answered “I felt going [to the ceremony] would be more of a deterrent for me during the tournament, because I don’t want to be thinking about it.” It appears that this extra practice would benefit him in the long run.
Thursday, June 15, 2000
“If I do it four straight days, it would be pretty good.” – Tiger Woods, post-round, after being told that his 65 was a U.S. Open record at Pebble Beach
After what most people considered a tough day due to the tribute to Stewart, many were ready to get the actual golf tournament underway. It appeared the most-ready and prepared to do this was none other than Tiger Woods. Woods’ round started out under the sun – but wouldn’t finish that way. The road to the record-setting championship began with a tap-in birdie on the 4th hole along with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-three seventh hole. The route was on. After a two-under 33 on the front nine, Woods was able to battle the fog that started creeping in on his second nine. On the 18th hole, Woods had to use three different corporate tents just so he knew where he was aiming. It might as well have been sunny and 75 – Woods shot a four-under 32 on the back nine, sitting at six-under on the day and in the lead, one shot in front of Miguel Ángel Jiménez. While Woods was able to finish his round, others weren’t as lucky, the fog was too thick. The round was delayed at 3:56 PDT and never resumed on Thursday. With almost half the field still on the course, play would begin an hour and a half early on Friday at 8:00 am. Notable names such as Nick Faldo, Corey Pavin and Jack Nicklaus (who was competing in his final U.S. Open) were unable to finish their first round on Thursday. Although the weather was a big talking point, there was a bigger talking point: Tiger Woods. His round included no bogeys, par-saving putts on No. 11 (15 feet) and No. 17 (10 feet) and then four different times where he got up-and-down to save par. Sure, it was beneficial to start playing early but there were numerous golfers who finished their round that weren’t able to put up a number even close to Woods’. For example: Sergio Garcia – 75, David Duval – 75, Brad Faxon – 80 and then John Daly, who had a 14 on No. 18, – 83. It was only the beginning of what would become the most dominant performance in the history of the sport.
Friday, June 16, 2000
“Good-night.” – Mike Tirico
Goodbye Jack Nicklaus. Hello (again) Tiger Woods. On a day where one legend bids farewell, another (future) legend opens eyes. Nicklaus’ final competitive round at the U.S. Open was two days earlier than he would have liked. Nicklaus limped his way through the fog and unideal weather, finishing with an 82. Woods, although he wasn’t able to finish his round on Friday, eased through the first 12 holes. Not hitting his first tee shot until 4:40 PM due to the fog that suspended the end of the first round, Woods overcame a 30-hour wait in between his final putt and his first shot – which almost came on Friday evening. He encountered his first bogey of the championship at the par-3 fifth hole, but, as anyone would expect him to, Woods bounced right back. He nailed an iron from the thick rough on the par-5 sixth hole, which soared over the ocean as well as some cypress trees and then landed 15-feet from the pin. A two-putt birdie wrapped up the hole. No. 7, no. 11 and no. 12 would also be birdie holes, and Tiger finished his day in-style on the par-three twelfth. The group had the choice to either call it a day after 11 or continue to play although it was getting very dark. They chose to play. Woods took advantage. He buried a 30-foot putt for birdie, sending him to 3-under on the day and 9-under for the tournament.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez was still in second-place at 6-under but only got through seven holes. Angel Cabrera, Thomas Bjorn and Kirk Triplett were a few other notable names at the top of the leaderboard, but it wouldn’t be long until they were a complete afterthought.
Saturday, June 17, 2000
“Typically in the U.S. Open, everybody always comes back, you have a little different sense of that with Tiger, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” – Phil Mickelson
24 holes were played by Woods on this day. Surprisingly, he was one-over. Even more surprisingly, some will call his third round performance at Pebble Beach during the 2000 U.S. Open one of the greatest rounds of golf ever played. While Tiger finished his 2nd round (and dropped one shot), he shot an even par 71 for his third round. Not impressed? Not many would be, until you realize that 17 players shot a score of 80 or higher. Almost 27% of the field shot 80 or higher while Woods shot 71. What’s even more impressive is that there was a triple bogey attached to his score. The par-4 third hole proved to be challenging for Woods, chopping out twice from a very thick collar around the bunker. Woods, as he always does (or used to do) made up for it. Eventually getting back to even par on no. 7, Woods bogeyed the eighth hole. Then, the toughest hole on the course proved to be no challenge. A birdie on no. 9 got Woods right back to even par again. By the end of the day the lead was ten strokes. Yes, ten. The ten-stroke lead beat the record set by James Barnes in 1921 (who led by seven strokes after three rounds). Oddly enough, Woods didn’t even have the best scoring round of the day. That belonged to Ernie Els, who shot a 3-under 68, moving from 30th place to 2nd place. It didn’t matter. The tournament was over, Tiger Woods was going to be the 2000 U.S. Open Champion, the question was how much he was going to win it by.
Sunday, June 18, 2000
“Before we went out, I knew I had no chance.” – Ernie Els
Wilt’s 100 points, Michael Phelps’ 2008 Olympics, DiMaggio’s 56 and Tiger’s 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. It is not a stretch to say that Woods’ accomplishment ranks up there with some of the best – ever – in sport. Those that remember this sunny June day at Pebble Beach Golf Links will remember how easy it looked. It was effortless. Nine pars on the first nine holes just like he was playing another practice round at Jupiter Island Practice Facility. Then, maybe realizing some records were at stake, he really turned it on. No. 10, birdie, nine-under. No. 11, birdie putt left inches short, nine-under. No. 12, 20-foot birdie putt in the cup, ten-under. No. 13, approach shot from 100 yards out misses the hole by inches, tap-in birdie, eleven-under. No. 14, birdie, twelve-under. No. 15, 25-foot birdie putt left inches short, tap-in par. Possibly the most impressive feats came on the 70th and 71st holes of the championship. Hitting his approach over the green, Woods was faced with a tough chip in the thick rough, which rolled about 15 feet passed the hole. He had this for par and to stay bogey-free for his round. After reading the putt like it was to win the championship, he sunk it. Fist-pump. Then, the par-3 17th hole – his drive is pulled into the right green-side bunker. Again wanting to stay away from any bogies on his final round, Woods almost holes it and sets himself up with a tap-in par. The final hole of the tournament featured a drive right down the middle of the fairway, an approach shot to the middle of the green, two-putt for par. Did you expect anything different? He was a machine. He had wrapped up his third major and his first U.S. Open. It was the greatest golf tournament ever played. Fifteen strokes was the gap between him and the next closer golfer. This shattered both the U.S. Open record for margin of victory (11, Willie Smith, 1899) and the Major Championship record for margin of victory (13, Old Tom Morris, 1862). In 106 years of the U.S. Open, no player had ever finished 72 holes in under par. Tiger did that and then some. It was like a lazy Sunday round of golf on the California coastline, it was almost like nothing other than Tiger Woods was happening, nothing else mattered and no one else cared. It was history.
…what happened to this Tiger?
Fifteen years has passed since the 2000 U.S. Open. Rory McIlory was 11-years-old when this occurred. Jordan Spieth? Six. It gives perspective on how long it has been. The answer is that easy. Time happened. Age happened. Injuries happened. Scandal happened. A lot has happened in fifteen years. “Tiger is done.” “He’s never going to win another Major.” “He’s not catching Jack.” No, probably not. And you know what? That’s okay. This is sports and this is what happens. Remember Michael Jordan with the Wizards? Or Kobe Bryant currently? Or Peyton Manning currently? Father Time always wins. It even won with Jack Nicklaus to a certain extent. Sure, he won The Masters at 46 and contended at Augusta at the incredible age of 56. But, what about the 1979 Players Championship, where Nicklaus, at the age of 39, shot an 82 in the third round? Or The PGA Championship that same year, where he finished 14-over par? Or what about The PGA Championship the year before that? +11 through two rounds and cut. But, he never withdrew, right? Wrong. The 1983 Masters (yes, The Masters), due to back spasms.
Is Tiger Woods the greatest golfer ever? No, he’s not. Jack Nicklaus is. But, he wasn’t invincible, just like Tiger Woods is not invincible. Although he has struggled the past year, he showed signs in 2013 that he can still play really good golf. Do I think he will ever win a major again? He has about 15 to 20 more realistic chances to get another one, so, yes I do. The conclusion is simple: People get older, it’s simply a part of life. Enjoy what you get to see for the rest of his career – it’s not everyday that you get to watch an athlete that accomplished something that even Jack Nicklaus couldn’t.