The 2000 Majors Tiger Completes the Circuit
In a major where just everybody who's anybody in golf had a chance to win, Vijay Singh was able to come away with the green jacket.
David Duval, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman, Davis Love, Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton . all had their chances. Singh finally won because, like the old saying goes, he played the best on the back nine Sunday. He won by three shots, partly because of sparkling play, partly because of good old-fashioned luck.
Woods made a dramatic effort, but two wayward shots in the first round cost him dearly - a double bogey at No. 10 and a triple bogey at No. 12. That placed him far back and he had just a little too much to make up to make it all the majors in one year.
Singh sent an approach shot into the pond at No. 11 Sunday, but was permitted to drop just short of the green and escaped with a bogey. At No. 12 he airmailed the green, but instead of being in jail with playing partner David Duval, the ball kicked out to a cushy lie in a back bunker.
At the par-5 13, Singh safely reached in two shots while Duval hit a 5-iron fat and into water. That two-shot swing when Duval was in second and mounting a serious charge was the final hurdle. Singh made all the big putts coming home on Augusta's tricky greens, and the long-suffering Fijian romped home a winner.
THE 100th U.S. OPEN
Tiger Woods took over the last three majors, beginning with the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. There wasn't much suspense after the opening round, when Woods had one-stroke lead over Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and two over John Huston. Woods shot a 65 in the first round and he was never headed. 'From the first hole he started dominating, and he never let go,' said Ernie Els, who was 15 shots behind come Sunday night but still in a tie second place.
Woods either had the best round or equaled it in three of the four rounds. In the third round, when he had a triple-bogey 7 at the third hole, his 71 equaled the best round of the day. By the end of the third round he had a 10-shot lead, leveling at 15 when it was over and a setting a record for the most dominating performance ever in a major, beating Old Tom Morris at the British Open in 1862. Old Tom had won that one by 13 strokes, which was the record before this one.
'If you look back at each and every round, I made important par putts,' he said. 'Those big par putts, you have to make them in the U.S. Open. If you miss a green, you're going to have the eight- or 10-footers or longer for par.'
Woods concluded the tournament by shooting a 32 for the final nine holes. But if anything sums up the week, it is a 15-footer for par he made at 16. He shook his fist dramatically at the ball, leaving absolutely nothing to chance at this demolition.
THE 129th BRITISH OPEN
Tiger Woods and records . what else do you want? This time the record was most under par, 19, which he established while wrecking historic old St. Andrews. They don't keep such records, but he must have set something when he escaped each and every little pot bunker while cruising to an eight-shot win.
In so doing, he became the youngest player ever to win golf's grand slam - the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. Tiger was 24 years old, beating the record of Jack Nicklaus, who did the trick when he was 26.
As in the U.S. Open, Woods failed to lead in the first round, but after Round 2, there was no question whom the eventual winner would be. It was Woods by three after the second round, Woods by five after the third, and finally Woods by eight at the conclusion.
David Duval and Ernie Els make brief attempts at the title, but Tiger was the only consistent threat after the tournament got into the second round. Els led after Day 1 by one stroke over Woods, but he couldn't sustain the excellence. Duval trimmed Woods' lead to three in the final round, but self-detonated in the final seven holes, playing them in seven-over-par.
THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
Bob May will live forever as the man who made Tiger take a deep breath on the way to the 2000 majors. May led by one with four holes to go, but Woods found it within himself to tie it up at the end of regulation, then run away with the victory in the new three-hole PGA format.
For a change, Tiger was actually tied for the lead at the end of the first day. But he couldn't seem to shake the field as he had done in the U.S. and British Opens. Scott Dunlop was tied with him at the end of Round 1, was only one behind at the end of the second round, and at the end of the third round was tied with May, still just one behind Woods.
Dunlop stepped aside the final day, but May didn't. And it appeared on No. 15 the championship was May's with Woods about to go down by three strokes. He was staring at a 15-foot putt for par, not exactly the kind of roller you just stroke into the hole. And May was looking at a six-footer for birdie.
Tiger made it, though, and May missed. Given a reprieve now and still just one shot back two holes later, Tiger lobbed a wedge to four feet and made the putt. That tied it and led to a miracle birdie putt on 18 by May, which Tiger covered with a birdie of his own.
A 20-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole started it right for Tiger. The next hole he scrambled for par, then rescued par on the final hole after he had hit three poor shots. Woods had won, just as he won in monstrous fashion at the U.S. Open, just as he had in easy fashion at the British Open.
Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round
CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.
Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.
Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.
“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”
Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.
“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”
Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey
CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.
This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.
Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.
Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.
“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”
Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.
“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”
Day (66) only star to shine Saturday at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – With an early rain softening an already vulnerable course, there were plenty of birdies to be had during the third round of the Travelers Championship. They were few and far between, however, for some of the biggest names in the field.
On the same TPC River Highlands layout where Paul Casey took control of the tournament with an 8-under 62, the decorated quartet of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka combined to shoot 1 under with no single score better than a 1-under 69.
Spieth’s dim hopes of back-to-back titles were effectively ended with a 1-over 71, while McIlroy’s second straight 69 dropped him from three shots off the lead to outside the top 10.
Thomas (70) and Koepka (69) are now 11 and 12 shots back, respectively.
Among the top-ranked contenders, the only player to make a modicum of a move was Jason Day, who shot a 4-under 66 and heads into the final round in a tie for sixth, six shots behind Casey. The Aussie made four birdies over his first nine holes, but he stalled out on the more gettable inward half.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now. I played well today from tee to green,” Day said. “Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays.”
Day has won twice already this season, but facing a significant deficit against a seasoned veteran he realizes that a quick start will be necessary to retain any hopes for a third title.
“This course can yield some birdies, which is quite nice,” Day said. “Get through tomorrow in a couple under on the front side, and then try to let things go a little bit on the back side if you can.”
Monkey off his back, Casey freed up to win again
CROMWELL, Conn. – Paul Casey is flushing his irons, rolling in putts and no longer fielding questions about a lengthy victory drought. For the remaining players looking to chase him down at the Travelers Championship, it adds up to a terrifying combination.
The Englishman felt right at home on a gray and dreary afternoon at TPC River Highlands, vaulting to the top of the leaderboard with an 8-under 62. It was the lowest round of the week, two shots better than the next best effort Saturday, and it turned a two-shot deficit into a four-shot lead heading into the final round.
After enduring an afternoon logjam, with as many as five players sharing the lead at one point, the tournament is now Casey’s to lose – and he’s not shying away from the burden.
“You’d always rather have a lead,” Casey said. “When you’re behind, there is no room for error. No, I’m excited. I’ve got confidence in my game. I’ve got confidence with the man standing next to me (caddie John McLaren), confidence in the gameplan of how to get around this golf course.”
That approach is undoubtedly aided by the magic act Casey pulled off in March at the Valspar Championship. Teeing off well before the tournament leaders, he shot a final-round 65 and watched as the likes of Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed were unable to match his number.
Without having to field a single question about the weight of the burden he shouldered, about ending a PGA Tour victory drought that extended back to the 2009 Houston Open, Casey launched the monkey off his back and into the trees lining the 18th fairway at Innisbrook.
While Casey has won 13 times on the European Tour, including five times from 2009-14, his dry spell on this side of the Atlantic had become a point of discussion and one that wore on the affable veteran. But one sublime round in Tampa rendered it moot, and it will also grant him an extra sense of calm heading into the final round outside Hartford where only Russell Henley will start the day within five shots of his total.
“If I hadn’t won in a while, then yeah, there would be more pressure. I sit here right now with no nerves,” Casey said. “I’m sure there will be tomorrow, but no nerves now. I’m very happy with what I’ve done. In years past maybe that wouldn’t have been the case because there hadn’t been enough wins.”
Granted, this is an event that often doesn’t follow the script. Birdies will be there for the taking on a course softened by light rains, and low scores shouldn’t be hard to find. This is, after all, where Jim Furyk shot a 58 two years ago and where Kevin Streelman ended his comeback victory in 2014 with a run of seven straight birdies.
Trailing by six, Bubba Watson floated the notion of needing a 60 to catch Casey without any hint that the score is out of reach. Jason Day, who like Watson trails by six at 10 under, quickly sniffed out Casey’s long-term track record like a shark seizing on a droplet of blood.
“Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays,” Day said. “I know that he in the past hasn’t quite got over the line with some of the wins that he possibly could have won, and that’s kind of a positive in my mind knowing that.”
But the look of calm confidence that emanates from Casey is that of a man who no longer has to answer questions about when The Win will come. His next victory will be just that, the next one. Another trophy to add to the decorated credentials of a player who has re-established himself in the game’s upper echelon over the past three years.
He’s back on a course he has thrived on from the very first time he set foot on the property, losing in a playoff to Watson in 2015 in his tournament debut. He has returned each year since, finishing T-17 and T-5.
His final-round 71 in 2016, carded the same day Furyk shot his 58, is proving more and more to be an aberration since each of his other 14 competitive rounds in Cromwell have ended up in the 60s. That includes three straight this week, capped by Saturday’s effort where he hit every green in regulation and tied his career low score on Tour.
Yes, the tournament is Casey’s to lose. But liberated by a recent win and playing some of his best golf at one of his favorite venues, there’s little reason to expect him to do anything but lift the trophy he barely missed out on three years ago.
“If I go out there tomorrow and I hit it the way I normally hit it, and I putt it well,” Casey said, “then I’m fairly confident.”