Tiger began the day at 8-under-par, ten shots clear of his nearest competitor. The trophy was his. The $800,000 winner's check was his. A place in history was his. He just had to play 18 holes to make it official.
Tiger's day began with nine consecutive pars. Certainly, it was good enough to win the title, but it wasn't good enough to break the records -- and that's what this round was all about. Don't let Tiger fool you. He might appear aloof when asked about his place in the game's record books, but there's a white-hot fire burning inside of him that belies his demeanor. After all, you don't get that perturbed by making pars in the final round of the U.S. Open, particularly when you have a double-digit lead!
Woods finally broke his string of pars with a birdie at the par-4 10th to move to 9-under-par. But the game didn't truly begin until the par-3 12th. It was there that Tiger sank an 18-footer for birdie, thus becoming just the second man in history to reach double digits at any time in a U.S. Open.
Twelve-under was the next goal for Woods. That was the height reached by Gil Morgan in the third round in the Open at Pebble Beach in 1992.
Woods came within one of that number by nearly holing his approach at the par-4 13th. The resulting birdie moved him to 11-under for the tournament. One hole later, Tiger reached the 12-under total by birdying the par-5 14th.
Now that he had tied the lowest score at any point in Open history, the next step was to break it. He nearly did on the 15th, but left his birdie attempt inches short.
The par-4 16th looked to be a pitfall for Woods. He missed the green long, and pitched past the hole 15 feet. Faced with that putt to remain at 12-under, Woods forcefully rolled it in. He called it the high point of his round.
Tiger safely parred the 17th, and then approached the par-5 18th. There wasn't quite the atmosphere experienced on the 72nd hole as there was a year ago at Pinehurst, but there was still some drama. You knew Tiger was going to break a number of records, but which ones? And, how many?
In the end, Tiger mercifully ended the 100th U.S. Open by sinking a three-footer for par. He shot a 4-under-par 67 on Sunday. Not just a bogey-free round, but also the best of the day by all involved. He finished the tournament at 12-under-par 272 - 15 shots beyond Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied for second.
'The day, and 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.'
The U.S. Open records Tiger set are as follows: largest 36-hole lead (6 strokes), largest 54-hole lead (10 strokes), largest winning margin (15 strokes; breaking not only the Open record, but the major championship record which was previously 12 strokes, held by Old Tom Morris at the 1862 British Open), lowest 72-hole score in relation to par (12-under).
In addition, Woods tied the 36-hole total of 134 set by Jack Nicklaus (1980) and Lee Janzen (1993). He also tied the same two with a 72-hole total of 272. He became just the fifth wire-to-wire winner (no ties) in the U.S. Open, and the first since Tony Jacklin in 1970. Tiger also established himself as the first man in golf history to win the U.S. Junior-Am, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open.
Some may feel that records are just numbers, and can't be used in determining greatness. But when there's no one at your present level, what else can you use but the past as a barometer.
How great can great be? It's fun to speculate, but difficult to answer; especially when you can't fully understand how great Tiger Woods is right now.
'The guy's unbelievable, man,' said Els, a two-time Open champion himself. 'I'm running out of words. Gimme a break. The guys unbelievable.'
Even the greatest wordsmiths are running out of adjectives to describe Tiger. And he's only 24-years-old.
Yes, this was a U.S. Open. Yes, this was Pebble Beach. Yes, Tiger won by 15. It wasn't competitive, but it was astounding. Simply put, Tiger Woods was and is too dominant to comprehend.
NEWS, NOTES AND NUMBERS
*Tiger Woods adds the 2000 U.S. Open to his major resume, which includes the 1999 PGA Championship and 1997 Masters Tournament. He will try to complete the career Grand Slam in next month's British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
*John Huston was the only American besides Tiger who finished in the top-7.
*Retief Goosen holed an approach shot on the par-5 18th to finish the tournament in a tie for 12th, thus earning an exemption into the 2001 U.S. Open.
*How important is hitting fairways? Colin Montgomerie led the field by hitting 82%, but finished tied for 46th in the event.
*Woods led the tournament in greens hit in regulation (71%) and driving distance (299.3 avg.)
*Nick Faldo led the tournament in putting, averaging 26 putts per round.
*The par-71 Pebble Beach course played to a 75.355 overall scoring average.
*Holes 8-10 ranked 2nd, 1st and 5th respectively in overall difficulty.