Tiger Woods’ US Open feat is still hard to believe 19 years on

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The 450th major championship will be staged this week – and it’s only appropriate that it will take place at the scene of the greatest display.

There have been more emotional majors – there was one just two months ago at Augusta – while the amount containing more drama would certainly run into three figures.

But the greatest performance in the history of the game? It really is beyond all argument.

Even now, 19 years on, the players who were there still struggle to comprehend the magnitude of Tiger Woods winning by 15 strokes at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach.

‘I actually think I played well enough to win that week, and yet I got lapped,’ said Ernie Els, who played with Tiger in the final round and ended up tied for runner’s-up spot with Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. ‘Normally, you think you’ve done quite well when you’re second, but it’s kind of embarrassing when you’re 15 shots back.’ 

How poetic that the man himself, after all that’s happened over the past two decades, should return this week as the Masters champion. ‘There’s nothing like a US Open at Pebble Beach,’ said Woods. 

‘When I look back on 2000, I know I didn’t hit every fairway or hit every green but I missed in the correct spots and always gave myself the best angles to recover. And I putted so well. 

‘I never missed a putt inside 10ft in 72 holes. That’s good on any type of greens. On these greens, made of poa which become bumpy in the afternoon, that’s really special.’ 

In 2000, Tiger was a 24 year old bachelor, who’d already established himself as the most feared competitor in the game. 

That week, he built his aura, and set in motion a train of staggering events that would end the following April with him becoming the only player in history to hold all four majors – as they’re now configurated – at the same time.

Woods looked more like the man who won the Masters on Tuesday than the tired soul who missed the halfway cut at the USPGA Championship last month. He sounded like he’s got his mojo back. Pebble will do that for a man.

Woods wasn’t perfect in 2000. In the delayed second round on Saturday morning, he screamed aloud his favourite four letter bomb as his drive from the 18th tee disappeared into the Pacific. In the third round, he actually marked down a triple bogey.

It didn’t matter. He was bigger, stronger and with a more delicate touch than anyone else.

Don’t rule him out this week, either. ‘I’d consider him the favourite,’ said Jack Nicklaus last week. ‘After what he did at Augusta, absolutely I’d consider Tiger the man to beat around Pebble.’ 

Woods is averaging an impressive 72 per cent of greens hit in regulation this season – and Pebble Beach, like Augusta National, is a second shot golf course. The only certainty is he will not win by 15. No-one will ever win a major by 15 shots again. 

It didn’t matter. He was bigger, stronger and with a more delicate touch than anyone else. ‘He just emasculated the golf course,’ nine-time major champion Tom Watson recalled. ‘It was the most remarkable tournament in the history of American golf.’

Don’t rule him out this week, either. ‘I’d consider him the favourite,’ said Jack Nicklaus last week. ‘After what he did at Augusta, absolutely I’d consider Tiger the man to beat around Pebble.’

Woods is averaging an impressive 72 per cent of greens hit in regulation this season – and Pebble Beach, like Augusta National, is a second shot golf course. 

The only certainty is he will not win by 15. No-one will ever win a major by 15 shots again.

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