The Greatest Golf Ever Played
Golf Digest and Golf World editors and writers recount Tiger Woods’ dominating win at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Released on 6/1/2010
There's an old phrase about the Open,
the ultimate examination, and I think it's
a legitimate way to characterize it.
It's the most challenging of the four majors.
It's the most challenging golf tournament in the world.
There was a lotta talk that Tiger couldn't win
the U.S. Open 'cause he didn't drive it straight enough.
He was massively long at the time,
but the question was could he hit it straight
enough in a very tight U.S. Open setup.
That was the one that a lot of people thought
might be the least likely that he would win.
So it was always sort of felt that the U.S. Open
is the one tournament that you can't win
unless you drive the ball straight, and there were
people who wondered whether Tiger would ever
drive the ball straight enough to win a U.S. Open.
I mean, he was the best player,
the best golfer in the world, but would he be
this incredibly dominant player?
I remember thinking, why did he change his golf swing
when he had won the Master's by 12 shots?
He had won only in 99 the PGA Championship at Medinah.
In terms of what would come later, it was a bit
of an off year for him in the majors,
but 2000, he was seemingly on a roll almost from the start.
He had gone through the period where he had
remade his game after the Master's of 97,
finally winning the PGA in 99, but that was death struggle.
There was Sergio.
So now we come to Pebble Beach in 2000,
and if you had said do you think somebody's gonna
win by double digits this week, it would've been laughable.
I think even in the week, I do remember,
there was this ceremony in honor of Payne Stewart,
and Tiger didn't go to it.
You come to find out that he didn't want to go,
he was focusing on what he needed to do,
what he needed to accomplish that week.
I was working, finishing up the issue of the magazine.
I did not fly until Thursday, that day.
What I'll always remember is I walked into the press center,
the first guy I saw was John Strege who was
writing the lead main story for Golf World that week.
I said, Hey, John, what's goin' on?
And John said, Tournament's over.
And I said, What?
And he said, Tiger shot 65, this tournament's over.
The 65 had no bogeys.
He made a couple of par saves.
He played with Furyk, and I remember talking
with Furyk about it.
He said every time he kinda was in a little danger,
had an eight-footer for par, had to scramble, he made it
and just kept the round goin'.
The glue was never loosened.
First off, I think the 65 took everybody by surprise.
You don't really expect that in a U.S. Open,
and if somebody does shoot 65 in the first round
of a U.S. Open, they don't win the tournament.
He took the lead in the first round,
and then just kept building on it and building on it
and building on it.
Again, much more so than 1997 at the Master's.
He seemed like he was playing a different golf course
than everybody else in the field.
He was playing from places that nobody else
was playing from, so that was the first key
to the combination.
He was just playing a shorter golf course,
and he was just in such a beautiful groove
with his swing, that he was hitting stiff a lot, too.
More than anything, he was making all his six
and 10-foot putts.
Butch Harmon said that he drove the ball
beautifully that week.
Steven Williams will tell you that he putted
incredibly well that week.
He one-putted 20 of the first 38 holes
before his triple bogey on Saturday,
and he responded to that triple on the third hole
by birdying six, seven and nine, I believe.
I thought that was actually the moment
where he was gonna come back to the pack,
and when he didn't come back, when he shot 71
with a triple bogey on Saturday,
obviously at that point, he was making
a mockery of his competition.
I think that Tiger got into one of those
zones that week that are just, you know,
what happens to great athletes.
It's like Bill Walton going 21 for 22
or, you know, it's when you get on one of those runs,
and he was on one.
There were over 50 rounds in the 80s that week.
The best golfers in the world, and they're just
hanging on by their fingernails, and this guy
is up by like 10 after three rounds,
and then it's a victory lap Sunday.
He just needed to get out on the golf course
and get started in the final round, and it was over.
I mean the only way he wasn't gonna win
is if he missed his tee time, if his car
didn't show up, if he forgot how to get
to the golf course that morning.
He just seemed so focused, and on the last day
he would win the tournament was well in hand.
He just didn't seem to want to make a bogey,
and he was goin' to do whatever he had to do
to keep that performance flawless.
That spoke to the makeup of the man
and the competitor as much as anything else.
He just didn't want to let it get away.
In his mind, I don't wanna make a bogey.
He kinda was playin' almost in his own league.
I remember he made about a 12-foot par putt
on 16, and he acted as if he'd just tied
for the lead or taken the lead.
He grinded over that putt like it was
the most important shot he was ever gonna hit,
and he made it, but when it went in,
he gave it one of those fist pumps,
and I was thinking wow, what a reaction to that.
So I asked him about it afterwards, why such a reaction?
He said, I started 10 strokes ahead, and I knew
with such a big lead it was gonna be hard
to maintain my focus, so my thought for the day
was to make no bogeys.
That was my goal.
I remember watchin' that week saying that
hey, this is special, guys.
This is another deal.
This is a guy who's playing the game perhaps
like it has not been played, even by myself,
even by Jack Nicholas, maybe even by Hogan,
you name the greats.
A lot of the guys realized what was happening.
I think it was Nick Price who said, you know,
I've had my time.
I feel bad for these other guys.
The implication was they may never have their time.
I think that was when the light really
went on for players that
we got a long haul ahead of us.
This guy's gonna be really, really difficult to beat.
The scoreboard itself at the end
of this tournament was a picture.
It told the whole story.
You have one guy, all of his numbers are in red figures,
and everybody else are in black figures.
That is the story.
As far as an indication on what was happening,
I think we all knew that Tiger Woods
was a special golfer, maybe the best ever,
or was gonna become the best ever,
but that was like an announcement, you know.
This is who you gotta deal with from now on,
and that was arguably the greatest golf ever played.