Player of the Decade: Tiger Woods
A decade into Tiger Woods' phenomenal professional career, the most amazing thing about him is his immunity from the pitfall that has dogged so many golfers who came before him. The list is long of players for whom great expectations were a ball and chain, the intangible that got in the way of their talent, that kept them from achieving what seemed likely. For Woods, groomed to be great and in love with the pressure situations that wilt others, the expectations are wind at his back.
A 12-stroke victory at the 1997 Masters wasn't good enough? Well, try a 15-shot winning margin in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, breaking a major-championship record that had stood since 1864. The 6-iron out of sand and over the water to nail down the 2000 Bell Canadian Open not dramatic enough? Then take the magical-mystery chip on the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters or the miraculous 4-iron launched from a steep slope during the 2002 PGA Championship. Putts, chips, pitches, sand shots, irons, woods--Tiger has executed historic shots through the bag, surgical or ferocious, whatever he needs to win.
Woods' pages of career highlights are as dense as Dostoevsky. He set or tied 27 PGA Tour records in 2000, when he achieved three legs of the "Tiger Slam," which he finished off with a victory at the 2001 Masters. Woods is adding highways to the Nicklaus map he has studied since boyhood.
He has won 57 PGA Tour events and 12 professional majors--on track to break the game's most hallowed records. Woods makes the remarkable look routine, but we should never think it so.
Some things never change. Tom Fazio produced expensive, critically acclaimed work like Victoria National in Indiana, Alotian in Little Rock and Dallas National in Texas, but got lambasted for his remodeling of old classics, particularly Riviera, Merion and Augusta National. Fazio alum Mike Strantz burst upon the scene with Stonehouse, Royal New Kent and Tobacco Road, the latter labeled "Pine Valley on steroids" by a fan, not a critic. Sadly, Strantz died in 2005, his final work the artistic refashioning of Monterey Peninsula CC across the street from Cypress Point. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the Pacific coastline of southwest Oregon opened its original 18, designed by a neophyte Scot, David McLay Kidd, in 1999. Two years later, its second 18, Pacific Dunes, authored by Tom Doak, proved to be even more strategic, spectacular and scenic. A third 18, Bandon Trails, by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, completed the troika in 2005. Inland, it sported both dunesland and hilly pine-lined holes. This fall Doak starts Bandon's fourth course, Old Macdonald, a tribute to one of America's earliest course architects, Charles Blair Macdonald. Doak worked on more ocean-side venues than anyone, with exciting results: Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Barnbougle Dunes in Australia and, in a surprise pairing with Jack Nicklaus, Sebonack in Southampton, N.Y.
1998--Mark O'Meara wins the Masters and the British Open.
1999--Jeff Maggert wins the PGA Tour's first $1 million first prize at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
2000--Michelle Wie, 10, is the youngest player to qualify for a USGA event, the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.
2001--Annika Sorenstam shoots the LPGA's first 59 at the Standard Register Ping in Arizona.
2002--Sorenstam sets an LPGA mark by earning $2.8 million in her 11-win season.
2003--Tommy Armour III shoots 254 at the Valero Texas Open, the lowest aggregate in PGA Tour history.
2004--Vijay Singh wins $10,905,166 on the PGA Tour.
2005--Woods' record cuts-made streak ends at 142 events.
2006--Total prize money available in 48 PGA Tour events is $256,850,000.
2007--FedEx Cup era begins.