Man About Town
At a British Open energized by Jack Nicklaus’ graceful exit, Tiger Woods returns to St. Andrews and claims his 10th career professional major title
By week’s end, it all came down to a kid on a golf course. Just like the new television commercial, a clever transposition of time and space in which Tiger Woods wins the British Open as a 4-year-old. Owing to snippets of homemade video shot a quarter-century ago, the marvels of computer science and Woods’ habit of turning a little boy’s fantasy into a grown man’s reality, one might humbly acknowledge the value of truth in advertising.
Just Do It? If only life were that simple. For all the moments when the burden of being the world’s top golfer is greater than the result, the 134th grasping of the claret jugular reminded us that the guy who deals with the most pressure is the guy who deals with it best. Woods assumed leadership of this tournament midway through the first round and never gave it back. He spent the weekend fending off two of Europe’s most decorated Ryder Cup heroes—one an owner of multiple major championships, the other a beneficiary of the heartiest home-crowd advantage you can’t measure on a scorecard.
He pumped two tee shots into the gorse Saturday and missed back-to-back birdie kick-ins Sunday, yet there he was that evening, alone again. Same overcast sky, same huge lead, same timeless setting. The little boy wonder is tearing history asunder, his ability to perform on command once again equal to public demand.
And now for this public-service message: Golf’s Big Five is barely alive, at least in the competitive sense. Woods’ 10th professional major title (and 13th counting his three U.S. Amateurs, tying him with another guy who knew a thing or two about pressure, Bobby Jones) officially silences any lingering talk of dominance by committee, the ultra-catchy storyline that, it may turn out, was worth its weight in hype. Woods is once again supreme. “I’ll tell you what—when I first started playing the tour, I honestly didn’t think I’d have this many majors before the age of 30,” he said, offering an updated career assessment. “There’s no way.”
If you’re going to nail down a double career Grand Slam in 29 years, seven months and 17 days, you can do worse than to drop the hammer at St. Andrews, where Woods threatened to run and hide from the field, encountered moderate resistance in a variety of shapes and sizes, then galloped to a five-stroke triumph that was closer than the record books will indicate.
If you’re going to turn 2005 into a giant I-told-you-so, you can do worse than to win the Masters, rally to finish second at the U.S. Open, then go wire-to-wire at the British Open. Asked by the BBC—then again at his post-victory news conference—for his response to those who questioned his ability to dominate as he did in 2000, Woods suggested his reply wouldn’t be appropriate for any medium. “I couldn’t answer that on the air,” he quipped, knowing the cost of four-letter words used on television, “and I can’t answer that now.”
Like the ad agency that morphed the baby and bully Tigers into a snazzy marketing pitch, you’ll have to use your imagination. “I think he’s shown they [the critics] were incorrect in their assessment,” said swing coach Hank Haney, whose 16-month working relationship with Woods is laying waste to the notion that hindsight is 20/20. “Guess I’m not so dumb after all.” Every major triumph is worth savoring, even when you’ve reached double digits, but No. 10 may rank only behind the 1997 Masters, 2000 U.S. Open, 2000 British Open and 2001 Masters on the mega-milestone list.