Tiger Woods Wins the U.S. Open

Monday, June 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — In the first U.S. Open of a new century, Tiger Woods' only real competition came from guys who played more than 100 years ago.

And, just as he did against the Open field this week, Woods blew away his ancient rivals.

Woods turned the 100th Open into a one-man show Sunday, winning by 15 strokes over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez for the biggest victory margin in the history of major championship golf.

In a performance even more dominating than his 12-stroke victory at the 1997 Masters, Woods tied the Open record with a score of 12-under 272. No one else in the field could break par.

``All week, I had a sense of calmness that I haven't had in quite a while,'' Woods said. ``It was reminiscent of Augusta in '97. No matter what happened, I was able to keep my composure and focus on the shot I needed to make.''

On Father's Day, Woods cradled the silver trophy in his left arm and thought about the man who taught him how to play golf.

``I can't wait to give this thing to my dad and let him rub it a little bit,'' he said.

Earl Woods watched on TV from his home in southern California as his son completed the fifth wire-to-wire victory in a U.S. Open.

``I can't tell you enough about what my dad meant to my golf. And to me, as a person growing up, and all the times that I had questions in life and all the guidance that he's given me,'' the younger Woods said.

``My dad always took me out and we practiced and played and had a lot of fun competing against each other. Those are the times you look back on and you reminisce and you miss.''

Woods was so far in front of the field, he might as well have been playing by himself. Leading by a record 10 strokes at the start of the day, he had four birdies in a span of five holes on the back nine Sunday while relentlessly marching to his third major title.

Woods' 15-stroke margin not only shattered the Open mark of 11 set by Willie Smith in 1899, but was the largest in any major championship — surpassing the 13-stroke victory by Old Tom Morris in the 1862 British Open.

Woods, the first player in Open history to finish 72 holes at double digits under par, also tied the lowest score in a U.S. Open. Jack Nicklaus shot 272 in 1980, and Lee Janzen matched that mark in 1993.

``Records are great, but you don't really pay attention to that,'' Woods said. ``The only thing I know is I got the trophy sitting right next to me. To perform the way I did, and on one of the greatest venues in golf, it doesn't get much better than that.''

Woods now has played in 14 majors as a professional and won three of them, including the 1997 Masters and the PGA Championship last August.

``I don't know how much more there is to say,'' Els said. ``We've been talking about him for two years. I guess we'll be talking about him for the next 20. When he's on, we don't have much of a chance. He's near perfect, the way he played this week.''

Woods had the lowest score in three of the four rounds of this year's Open.

``Tiger Woods was playing a different tournament after two rounds,'' Jimenez said. ``After two rounds, I was playing against everybody else.''

More history awaits next month. Woods goes to the British Open at St. Andrews with a chance to become only the fifth player — and at age 24, the youngest — to win all four major championships.

While the weather varied throughout the tournament — brilliant sunshine giving way to fog, wind rising and then disappearing — Woods was remarkably steady. Even the weather did little to challenge him Sunday, providing a mild, still day for his coronation.

In a tournament that marked the U.S. Open farewell of Jack Nicklaus after a record 44 straight years and began with an emotional tribute to the late Payne Stewart, who died in a plane crash four months after winning the 1999 Open, Woods' dominance robbed the final round of any drama or tension.

``There's so little excitement with the gallery. There's no noise,'' 1992 Open winner Tom Kite said after completing his round early in the day. ``This could be one of the most boring U.S. Open finales of all time.''

Woods won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am here four months ago, joining Ben Hogan (Riviera in 1948) and Nicklaus (Pebble in 1972) as the only players to win a U.S. Open on the same course where they had won a regular tour event in the same year.

Woods pulled off a stunning comeback in February, making up seven strokes over his last seven holes to win the Pro-Am tournament. This time, he never trailed.

``Give me a nine or 10-shot lead every time, every single time,'' Woods said. ``Now I realize why most of the golfers out here are balding or gray.''

Tiger Woods poses with his mother after winning the U.S. Open.