Open Slammed Shut


Tiger Woods hold Claret JugIt's hard to imagine that Tiger Woods could surpass the expectations which were placed upon his ever-broadening shoulders entering this week. Yet he did. Woods captured the career Grand Slam at the home of golf on Sunday. And he did so in typical-Tiger fashion.
He won at Augusta by 12. He won at Pebble Beach by 15. Now he's won at St. Andrews by eight. Kind of makes you wonder what happened at Medinah when he only won by one.
Tiger Woods' name was etched onto the Claret Jug late Sunday afternoon. A simple formality. The trophy was his before the event began. Odds makers, fans, media and even many of his peers conceded the 129th Open Championship to Woods before his lips left the U.S. Open trophy.
Tiger made it official on Sunday. He shot rounds of 67-66-67-69 to finish the tournament at 19-under-par, eight shots clear of Thomas Bjorn and Ernie Els. You have to feel for Els. If not for Tiger, the South African would be the world's best. We might be speaking of a three-time U.S. Open and current British Open champion. Instead, he's a three-time major runner-up in 2000.
There was a slight threat to Tiger's coronation on Sunday. David Duval birdied four of his first seven holes in the final round to cut Woods' overnight lead of six in half. But five holes later, the deficit was back to six. Woods birdied the 10th to go four up, then picked up two shots with another birdie at the short par-4 12th combined with a Duval bogey.
Duval was once again relegated to playing for second. Surprisingly, he finished tied for 11th. Still seeking his first major, Duval bogeyed the 16th and quadrupled the 17th to finish the tournament at 7-under-par, 12 strokes back of Woods.
Fans watch Tiger on the big screenWoods' day was eerily reminiscent to that of his final round at Pebble. He carded eight pars and one birdie on the front, then collected three birdies in his first five holes on the back. Through 70 holes, Woods was 20-under-par. Unfathomable for anyone but Tiger. He did drop a shot coming home, but you can hardly blame him if he lost a bit of focus. It was torturous watching Duval take four shots to get out of the 'Road Hole' bunker at 17. Fans were clamoring about, yelling in his backswing. Still, Tiger made a six-footer for par at the 18th to finish the event at 19-under. It's a summit never before flagged in major championship history, let alone the 128 previous British Opens.
At 24, Woods becomes the youngest to ever win the career Grand Slam. By winning the 1997 Masters, 1999 PGA Championship, 2000 U.S. Open and 2000 Open Championship he joins the foursome of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as the only men to accomplish that feat.
'It's pretty special to be in such elite company,' Woods said. 'I am very fortunate to have had the success I have had. This is the home of golf and where you always want to win. I said before the U.S. Open that if you wanted to win championships on two ultimate courses it would be Pebble Beach and St. Andrews. I am fortunate to have won both in the same year.'
Just as Jack did, Tiger won his fourth different major in Scotland. But Woods isn't just following in Jack's footsteps, he's leaving a bigger impression.
Tiger will take his next major step at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky -- site of the 2000 PGA Championship. It doesn't have the lore of Augusta, Pebble or St. Andrews, but it does provide a challenge. Tiger's demolished scoring records at the three most prominent majors. Now, it's time for the defending champion to do it the right way, the Tiger way, at the PGA Championship.