Tiger Woods does it again for a career Grand Slam at 24
Tiger Woods provided a lot of memories from the British Open at St. Andrews—like the variety of ways in which he turned the Old Course into a plate of mince, neeps and tatties—but a classic remark of his, uttered in the heat of battle, lives on.
There was this moment in Saturday's third round when he was at the 14th hole, the 581-yard par 5, building a six-shot lead through 54 holes, going for his fifth birdie in seven holes, intent on letting everybody know they'd better stop jacking with him on the leader boards.
What he did was, he lashed a 3-wood shot with full force, a shot he hoped would reach the green in two and give him an eagle putt and surely a two-putt birdie. It was only an instant after he swung that you knew by his expression that he liked it. Knew he'd clubfaced it, stung it.
You had to imagine that Steve Williams, his caddie, had just said something to him on the order of "show me that 290-yard, 3-wood draw of yours." And that's when Tiger, knowing he'd pured it, with the ball only halfway home, knifing through the air, casually said to Steve:
"That the one you're talking about?"
Not cocky, just confident. The most self-assured player in the game. Another defining moment in the life of the game's greatest golfer. Then, of course, he goes out in Sunday's final round and more or less hits the same shot again at the 14th, one of the many controlled shots he hit to shower the premises with almost as many records as there were people, which was a record in itself. More than 230,000 attended this Open during the week, and another curious record is that five of them decided to shed their clothes, hop over the ropes and run around the golf course naked before being led away by the local constabulary—the five-streaker Open.
If you want to compare Tiger Woods with Jack Nicklaus, consider his accomplishments with those of Jack at the same age of 24: Tiger now has seven majors. Jack had five. Tiger has 21 PGA Tour victories. Jack had 12. Tiger has 27 world victories. Jack had 15. Tiger has $17 million in career prize money. Jack had $275,000. Heck, Tiger's caddie even made $700,000 last year, which would have put him in the top
60 money-winners if he'd bothered to take a divot somewhere.
You want to hear about birdies and bogeys, go somewhere else. When it seemed a lock that the guy who's surely the most famous athlete in the world today was going to win this British Open, something took place that you'd normally expect to happen around Buckingham Palace. Tiger's handlers and some officials of the R&A planned for the coronation.
A mole supplied me with a peek at the schedule. Which was:
6:45—Tiger records his score. 6:57—Tiger supplies quick quotes for pool reporter. 7:00—Tiger grants two-minute interviews to ABC, BBC and Radio 5. 7:06—Prize giving. 7:12—Tiger does photo ops at prize table. 7:20 to 8:00—Tiger does mass interview in press tent. 8:10—Tiger attends champagne reception in R&A Committee Tent. 8:30—Tiger grants three-minute interview to ESPN, CNN and maybe somebody else.
Not included: Tiger goes out to look for bodies that were pushed into the Swilcan Burn as he marched up the final fairway. Some, like David Duval, who was last seen taking four shots to get out of the Road Bunker, have still not been recovered.
For several days before the 2000 British Open began there was nothing but talk in the periodicals about Tiger Woods completing the career Grand Slam. Joining Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen, the only ones who'd done it, and doing it at a younger age. As everyone on the globe was aware—everyone, perhaps, except a tourist who missed the last bus out of the Congo—Tiger had already collected a Masters, PGA, and U.S. Open in his still-brief pro life.