Tiger Goes Majorless in 2003

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Editor's Note: This is part of a series of articles highlighting the top stories of 2003. Check back through the end of the year to see the rest of the list.
 
2003 Stories of the YearEvery season you can rest assured that Tiger Woods will somehow create one of the top 5 stories of the year.
 
More often than not, No. 1.
 
But this year, he is relegated to the realm of Buffalo Bills, Susan Lucci and most Democratic presidential candidates over the past 1/3 of a century.
 
This year, Tiger is second. And its because of the one big thing that he failed to do for just the second time in his professional career.
 
Just as it was with Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods name is synonymous with major championships. More than anything, those four annual events define Woods legacy.
 
Woods has only been a full-time professional for seven years, and yet only four players in the history of golf have won more major titles than him. Had he collected another one this season, that list would have been reduced to just two ' Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen.
 
But, alas, he did not, and remains tied with Tom Watson with eight career major victories.
 
It all began eight months ago in Augusta, Ga.
 
Woods entered the Masters Tournament, of course, as the favorite. Hes always the favorite in any tournament in which he competes ' particularly in the majors ' so there was no added weight of expectation ' at least not from being the man to beat.
 
On the other hand, there was an immeasurable amount of pressure placed upon him by being the two-time defending champion.
 
Only three players have won back-to-back green jackets ' Woods, Faldo (1989, 90) and Jack Nicklaus (1965, 66). And none have ever pulled off the hat trick.
 
With Martha Burk ring-leading a literal sideshow in his periphery, Tiger put on the blinders and tried gamely to once again accomplish what no one before him had ever achieved.
 
Woods, however, played his first 36 holes ' which took three days to complete due to a wash-out Thursday ' in 149 strokes. He went 22 holes before making his first birdie, and had to make a three-foot par putt on No. 36 simply to make the cut.
 
He rebounded in the third round with a 6-under 66 to move into contention; four back of 54-hole leader Jeff Maggert.
 
But Tigers imminent attack proved inept. He chose driver ' whether soley on the advice of his caddie or not ' at the short par-4 third, blocked it right, had to hit his second shot left-handed and eventually made double bogey.
 
He shot 3-over 75 to tie for 15th.
 
I made a mental blunder on 3, Woods said following his round. I wanted to hit iron. It was a bad decision. Stevie (Williams, Woods' caddie) said it was a better play from down below. I went with it but ultimately it's the player's call and consequently I made the wrong decision.
 
With visions of a three-peat blinded, Woods set his sights on a repeat in the U.S. Open, where, for the second straight major, he failed to make a birdie in the first round.
 
He did make an eagle, though, to offset a pair of bogeys at Olympia Fields for an even-par 70.
 
Woods was five off the 18-hole lead, and moved to within three at the halfway point. But a Saturday 75, combined with 36-hole leader Jim Furyks 67 left the 2000 and 2002 U.S. Open champion 11 off the pace entering the final round.
 
He finished with that same deficit, and in a tie for 20th place.
 
Disappointment at the first two majors quickly turned to frustration at the third ' and it took only one swing.
 
Tigers opening-round woes continued at Royal St. Georges as he lost his ball after his very first shot of the tournament disappeared in the shin-high heather. He made triple bogey and carded three straight bogeys at one stretch, but still managed a 2-over 73 to keep himself just five back of an unstable leader in Hennie Otto.
 
By Saturday night, Tiger had inched to within two strokes of the lead. Sunday, he seemed poised to end his year-long major drought when he birdied three of his first seven holes to move to 2-under-par for the tournament.
 
Everyone was ready to crown Tiger champion until he inexplicably bogeyed four of his next 11 holes, including two of the final four. He finished two back of Ben Curtis, who was the only player under par at minus-1.
 
You've got to have things go your way in order to win,' said Woods, whose last major title came in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage. And this week I got my share of good breaks, and also got my share of really bad ones, too.
 
Three down, one to go, and you just knew hed get it done at the PGA Championship. Hes clutch. And, after all, this is the tournament where he snapped a 10-major winless streak in 1999.
 
Each major (this year), I've had a chance going into the weekend. Sunday at Masters I was right there, a couple of shots back. At the U.S. Open, I was a few shots back going into Saturday. And then Sunday (at the British Open), I had a great chance. I've been there, I just haven't won, he said prior to the start of the PGA.
 
That's the way it goes. I've tried. It's not like I'm not trying out there. Sometimes I just can't quite get it done and other times you can, and obviously this year, I've come close and just haven't quite gotten over the hurdle.
 
This time, Woods stumbled over nearly every obstacle before crossing the finish line at Oak Hill. He didnt break par in any round ' the first time he had done that in a major since the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie ' and tied for 39th place ' his worst-ever showing as a professional in a major.
 
I've done it before,' Woods said of going a season without a major victory. 'I did it in '98. It won't be the last time and it certainly has not been the first time.
 
You're going to go years where you just don't win. That's okay, as long as you keep trying to improve.
 
For the record, Woods posted five PGA Tour victories this season to go along with his fifth straight PGA of America and PGA Tour Player of the Year trophies. He also won the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average for the fifth consecutive season.
 
He just had that one ' or four ' major blemish.
 
This year has been one of those years where I have won 1/3 of my tournaments. People say I have had a terrible year. I still don't understand why people look at it that way, Woods said at the Funai Classic. Granted, I didn't win a major championship this year, that's disappointing. I tried. I had my chances.
 
That's what I focus my whole year around and trying to win those.
 
Related Links:
  • No. 1: Sorenstam's Season Transcends Wins
  • No. 2: Tiger Goes Majorless in 2003
  • No. 3: What a Year for Watson
  • No. 4: Player of Year Down to the Wire
  • No. 5: Elders Knock Kids Off Tour Perch