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Woods had four days of perfection on the Old Course

July 6, 2005

By Jon Bramley

LONDON (Reuters) – Tiger Woods arrived at St. Andrews in
July 2000 for the British Open confirmed as the finest golfer
of his era. He ended the tournament lauded as the greatest
ever.

The American’s epic victory after four balmy days on the
east coast of Scotland earned him a career grand slam of all
four of golf’s professional majors, making him one of only five
men to achieve the feat.

Compatriot Mark Calcavecchia, an Open winner from 1989,
summed up Woods’s achievement: “If Jack (Nicklaus) was in his
prime today, I don’t think he could keep up with Tiger…he is
the chosen one.”

Woods did not just get on top of the Old Course: he
surveyed it, stalked it, worked out his plan of action and then
completely pulverized it.

“He has raised the bar to a level that only he can jump,”
gushed Tom Watson, a five-times Open champion and himself one
of the sport’s all-time greats.

“Someone is going to have to use flubber in the bottom of
their shoes to be able to jump over that bar. He is something
supernatural.”

The facts speak for themselves. Woods strung together
rounds of 67-66-67-69 for a record 19-under-par total of 269 at
St Andrews, eclipsing Nick Faldo’s mark of 270 set 10 years
earlier.

FIVE STROKES

In 1990, the Briton had won with five strokes to spare but
Woods’s performance almost made that look like a close call as
he romped home by eight.

It was the golfing equivalent of a 10-0 soccer massacre or
a heavyweight boxing knockout in the first few seconds of the
opening round.

Most remarkably of all during a week of scorching sun and
airport-runway quick fairways, the then 24-year-old Woods did
not land in a single bunker on a course peppered with dozens of
them.

Throughout the four days, Woods was almost uniformly
straight from tee to green before showing the touch of a
surgeon with his putter to convert his opportunities into
birdies.

A single hole, the 12th, in Saturday’s third round
encapsulated the story of his mastery.

The 314-yard hole was for many reachable with one blow from
a driver off the tee, although with gorse to the left and right
the strategy had its risks.

Like many others, Woods’s attempt ended up in a deep hollow
some 15 feet below the level of the green where the pin was
placed in a spiteful position on the brink of a ridge.

A chip with a wedge needed to be ounce-perfect: too weak
and the ball would run back to its original starting position,
too strong and it would scamper past the hole and into gorse or
the long grass on the other side of the switchback green.

TREACHEROUS POSITION

Knowledgeable spectators had long been gathered at this
particular spot as player after player attempted to escape from
the treacherous position, all of them failing to extricate
themselves and producing bogeys or worse.

Woods briefly sized up the situation, flicked an air-shot
in practice with a wedge, and then sent an approach toward the
hole almost fizzing with spin.

The ball landed halfway up a slope leading to the hole, bit
with check-spin on a putting surface baked as slick as linoleum
and then, as if on string, ran slowly to within 18 inches of
the cup from where Woods holed out for yet another birdie.

Moments earlier, one of his closest rivals and one of the
most gifted men to pick up a golf club in 20 years, South
African Ernie Els, had been tested by the same hole and been
left wanting as he took a double-bogey six.

Woods was to go on to triumph at the next major, that
year’s U.S. PGA Championship, and again in the 2001 U.S.
Masters to hold all four professional majors at the same time
– the first man to achieve the feat.

Further majors followed with the Masters again in 2002 and
the U.S. Open the same year and he collected a green jacket
from Augusta for a fourth time last April. That took his tally
of golf’s blue riband titles to nine.

All of them have been won with trademark panache, guts and
skill but none quite compares with those four summer days at St
Andrews when Woods briefly touched absolute perfection.




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