Ranking Tiger’s nine wins in his epic 2000 season
In the summer of 2000, Tiger Woods elevated his game to a level never seen before
July 13, 2020
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
Twenty years ago – specifically a two-month stretch that summer -- the phenomenon named Tiger Woods didn’t just take his legend to another level. He brought it to another galaxy.
That June at a familiar backdrop – the majestic Pacific and the staggering beauty of Pebble Beach Golf Links – the storyline was something golf had never witnessed. In arguably the closest anyone has come to playing perfect golf, Woods authored the most dominating performance in a major championship, winning the U.S. Open by a staggering 15 strokes.
For perspective, consider the three icons who each own four U.S. Opens. At the end of 72 holes, Jack Nicklaus led by a combined total of nine strokes (one playoff); Ben Hogan by 10 (one playoff); Bobby Jones by four (two playoffs). And to repeat, Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15, finishing at 12 under while you needed binoculars to see Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez, the runner-ups who were at 3 over.
CHASING 83: A look back at Tiger’s run to 82 wins
A month later at another iconic venue, Woods blitzed the Open Championship field by eight strokes on the Old Course at St. Andrews. And a month after that, he and Bob May finished 72 holes of the PGA Championship five strokes ahead of everybody else, with Woods winning in a playoff at Valhalla. It gave him the first three legs of what eventually would become the Tiger Slam.
Those remain the exclamation points to that season of athletic beauty: Nine exhilarating PGA TOUR wins as golf was played like it never had been before and may never be again. Might Woods have been even better in 2006-07 (15 wins in 31 starts)? Maybe. I was there for most of those, too, and sheer brilliance was on stage.
But there was an electricity to 2000 that will always warm my spirit and having been blessed to cover seven of his nine wins, the indelible moments are plentiful. The numbers from those nine wins remain a testimony to his awesomeness:
In 23 of those 36 rounds he led outright and four other times he shared the lead; two wins came in playoffs, the other seven were by an average of 6.57 strokes; he was a stupefying 160 under for 36 rounds and averaged a staggering 67.33; he was over par in just one of his 36 rounds, even par in two others, under par in 33, and 10 times he shot 65 or better.
Now it’s the summer of 2020 and Tiger is back at Muirfield Village, playing for the first time in five months and seeking to break the tie with Sam Snead on the all-time wins list. Nine of those first 82 wins came 20 years ago and rest comfortably in my memory bank. Here’s how I rank the wins of 2000.
Aug. 24-27, Firestone CC; Akron, Ohio
Woods shot: 64-61-67-67 – 259 (-21)
What happened: Textbook wire-to-wire. The second-round 61 was pure silliness, posted in such an emphatic manner that the opposition was stunned. Except for Phil Mickelson, of course. He bristled when a reporter asked if he thought the tournament was over. “I certainly don’t. A little disappointed that you would bring that up,” he replied. Seven back at the time, Mickelson finished 12 behind Woods.
Writers’ perspective: “I never thought I’d see a better shot-maker than (Ben) Hogan or a winner than (Jack) Nicklaus. But I have. It’s Tiger. My jaw is agape.” – Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest, as told to Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Player feedback: “There’s nothing more I can say.” – Paul Azinger, who closed with 65 and still got beat by 14
Lasting image: When James Driscoll of Brookline, Massachusetts, local flavor galore to my Boston Globe editors, reached the championship match of the U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol in New Jersey, my assignment changed. I flew out of Cleveland Sunday and witnessed Driscoll’s dramatic comeback to force extra holes. That Woods waltzed to an 11-stroke win in my absence was no surprise; that Driscoll fell in a playoff to Jeff Quinney on Monday morning is a personal footnote to the incomparable season that was 2000.
March 16-19, Bay Hill Club & Lodge; Orlando, Florida
Woods shot: 69-64-67-70 – 270 (-18)
What happened: It was almost as if Woods toyed with the field, so in control was his game, so explosive was his might when he needed it. T-3 after Round 1, he seized the lead on Friday and held it throughout. He obliterated the par-5s (10 birdies, 2 eagles) and made just one harmless bogey over the final 36 holes.
Writers’ perspective: “Blame it on March Madness, because if we aren’t suffering from hoops overload by now, my name isn’t Gonzaga and Billy Packer isn’t wearing glass slippers. Still, that didn’t look like Tiger Woods winning the Bay Hill Invitational Sunday as much as it did Dean Smith and the North Carolina Tar Heels running the four-corners offense. There was Tiger Woods playing keep away. No fist pumps, no come-from-behind rallies, no improbable escapes, no show time.” – Gary Van Sickle, Sports Illustrated
Player feedback: “I think he’s playing everybody’s ‘A’ game every week.” – Davis Love III
Lasting image: Love isn’t a boastful type, but when after his third-round 63 to get within two of Woods, he said, “I’ve been saying for the past few months that someone has to knock him down in the dirt to show him that he can lose,” I nearly dropped my notebook. Love might regret those words, I said to myself and, sure enough, Woods won by four.
Tiger Woods wins 2000 Bay Hill Invitational
May 25-29, Muirfield Village; Dublin, Ohio
Woods shot: 71-63-65-70 – 269 (-19)
What happened: More and more layers of frustration and awe are piled on as Woods shoots 18 under with just three bogeys over his final 54 holes to continue to beat the opposition to a pulp. Heavy Sunday rain forces Monday finish, though Ernie Els, who started Round 2 just three behind Woods, but finished it 10 back, didn’t see the point. “Listen, guys, it’s over,” he said solemnly, and the tournament host seemed to agree. “He’s just making mincemeat out of golf courses,” added Jack Nicklaus.
Writers’ perspective: “The rain didn’t dampen Tiger Woods’ spirits Sunday, but his comments certainly must have sent an unnerving message to the rest of the PGA TOUR. ‘Every area of my game can get better,’ Woods said after the fourth round of The Memorial Tournament was postponed until today. ‘I won’t win every week, but it’s a nice goal.’ ” – Vartan Kupelian, The Detroit News
Player feedback: “Well, you spot the No. 1 player in the world six shots for 18 holes, I’d have to bet on Tiger.” – Steve Lowery
Lasting image: Woods was spotted coming out of a Marriott Courtyard. He smiled and told colleague Glenn Sheeley of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it allowed him to outmaneuver the crowd of autograph-seekers who suspected he was at the traditional players’ hotel nearby. Quipped Sheeley: “We knew Tiger was going for the Grand Slam; who knew he was trying for Platinum (status), too.”
Sept. 7-10, Glen Abbey GC; Ontario, Canada
Woods shot: 72-65-64-65 – 266 (-22)
What happened: We’re guessing he was bored by all those virtual wire-to-wire efforts, so Woods opened modestly, sat seven behind Kevin Sutherland, then scorched Glen Abbey with 17 birdies, three eagles, and just one bogey over the next 54 holes to win his third straight tournament and ninth of the season. The shot that nailed it – a 6-iron from 218 yards out of a fairway bunker to set up a birdie – is arguably his best. Click here for an oral history of that shot.
Writers’ perspective: “True to form, Woods gave the sea of humanity crammed into Glen Abbey everything it came to see. He put together another incredible round and he manufactured another shot sure to leave everyone talking for a long time.” – Randy Phillips, The Gazette Montreal
Player feedback: “He was 17 and I could beat him then. He wasn’t as intimidating.” – Grant Waite, recalling when he first played alongside Woods
Lasting image: It didn’t generate the sort of enthusiasm that Woods’ run of wins at three majors did, but personally, I got a charge out of the fact Woods won the U.S. Open, Open Championship and Canadian Open in the same year, matching a feat that only Lee Trevino had accomplished.
Tiger Woods’ approach on the par-5 18th at the 2000 Bell Canadian Open
Jan. 6-9, Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii
Woods shot: 71-66-71-68 – 276 (-16)
What happened: Playing the windswept Plantation Course for the first time, Woods got a feel for the massive property on Thursday, then blitzed the place on Friday, his 7-under 66 featuring not one, but two par 4s where he drove it onto the green. The weekend battle was won by Els (67-68 to Woods’ 71-68) as they finished in a tie by matching eagles at the 72nd hole. They then matched birdies at the 18th before Woods made birdie on the second playoff hole, No. 1, to win.
Writers’ perspective: “The flag-snapping trade winds were the least of anyone’s worries Friday at the Mercedes Championship. The second round of the new season brought the same old problem – how to stop Tiger Woods. There appears to be no solution.” – Doug Ferguson, Associated Press
Player feedback: “You’ve just got to stick to your guns. But he’s got bigger guns than I have.” – Ernie Els
Lasting image: Little did Els know it at that time, but there would be three more runner-up finishes to Woods that season, including two majors. But in sultry Hawaiian warmth, Els acknowledged that Woods was a freak show. “He’s probably going to be bigger than Elvis when he gets into his 40s.”
Feb. 3-7, Pebble Beach GL, Spyglass, Poppy Hills; Pebble Beach, California
Woods shot: 68-73-68-64 – 273 (-15)
What happened: A miracle, is what. Seemingly insurmountable deficits at 36 (eight) and 54 (five) holes were nothing when compared to what he faced in Monday’s final round – he was 10-under and seven behind Gogel with seven holes to play. To say it was improbable was an understatement; it was impossible. Yet, by now with Woods, most things were probable, anything was possible – and this was the tournament that cemented those points. He hit a 5-iron to 8 feet and birdied the demanding par-3 12th, then at the 15th he holed a sand wedge from 97 yards for eagle. At 16, he nearly holed out again, this time from 115 yards, but settled for a tap-in birdie. To close, Woods found the fairway, hit a 2-iron from 228 yards to the front of the green, pitched to 3 feet, and made the birdie for a riveting 64. He had played the last seven holes in 5-under, a stretch during which Gogel played his last eight holes in 4-over, creating a remarkable 9-stroke swing. From seven down, Woods won by two.
Writers’ perspective: “All right, so what exactly is it going to take now to stop Tiger Woods’ six-tournament winning streak? Playing blindfolded? Jack Nicklaus coming back in his prime? Byron Nelson’s guardian angel leaving spike marks on the green? The way things are going in this World According to Tiger, chances are there isn’t much that can stop him, outside of covering the holes with dinner plates.” – Thomas Bonk, Los Angeles Times
Player feedback: “He’s got to leave a few for his friends, doesn’t he? He can’t have them all.” – Jean Van de Velde
Lasting image: We thought it was over and we knew it was lunch time, so the long walk from the 13th green at Pebble Beach to the media center was made just in time to hear a thunderous road. Woods had holed out for eagle at 15 and trailed by just three. “Remember how we said we weren’t going to have to go to San Diego next week?” my colleague said. “We were wrong. We’re going.” Indeed, Woods won and so our traveling circus of golf writers re-booked travel plans and were off to Torrey Pines.
Aug. 17-20, Valhalla GC; Louisville, Kentucky
Woods shot: 66-67-70-67 – 270 (-18)
What happened: Unheralded Bob May made an 18-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to momentarily pull ahead of Woods, who then needed a 5-footer to force a playoff. He made it. In a three-hole aggregate playoff, Woods went birdie-par-par to edge May, who was par-par-par. Woods, who successfully defended his title, was in at least a tie for the lead each day as he joined Ben Hogan (1953) as the only players to win three professional majors in a season.
Writers’ perspective: “It’s a strange job, traipsing about, typing sports. You forget how to tingle. Your Amaze-o-Meter gets stuck on empty. A comeback to win the Super Bowl? Yawn, scribble. A 9.9 to win the gold? Scribble, yawn. Almost 220 mph on that last lap? Yawn, Yawn. Then along comes Tiger Woods, and a job becomes a privilege. I would pogo from Bangor to Birmingham to see Woods play. I would wear spike heels, a see-through muumuu and RuPaul’s curlers if it were the only way through the gate. I ought to buy my dad a box of cigars for having me the year that he did.” – Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated
Player feedback: “He is the best player in the world by a long, long way and we have got to raise our standards to join his. We have got to go up to his and we are all trying. We are all failing, but we are all trying.” – Colin Montgomerie
Lasting image: The first-ever pairing of Woods with Jack Nicklaus. The 24-year-old phenom and the 60-year-old icon. Miles apart in scores (66-67 for Woods, 77-71 for Nicklaus), but glued together in golf folklore, they came to the par-5 18th on Friday and Woods was mesmerized by Nicklaus’ bid to hole a short wedge for eagle and make the cut. “I watched him swing and said, ‘That is perfect rhythm,’ ” said Woods. The shot nearly was perfect, too, but it just missed going in and so the Golden Bear was not around for the weekend but not before giving us another priceless memory.
Tiger Woods wins 2000 PGA Championship
July 20-23, The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland
Woods shot: 67-66-67-69 – 269 (-19)
What happened: From the edge of the majestic Pacific to hallowed ground, Woods put up an unfathomable summer stretch in the two oldest professional majors. Backing up a 15-stroke win at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Woods posted an eight-stroke win at The Old Course and at 24 became the youngest of just five golfers to win the career Grand Slam (Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus are the others). He played these eight summer rounds in 31-under. Not once in four days did Woods hit into any of the 112 bunkers that give protection to The Old Course, a factoid that left observers in awe.
Writer’s perspective: “In golf, a handicap is the great equalizer. It enables anybody to play against anybody else, even Tiger Woods, on theoretically even terms. If you have a 15 handicap and shoot 87, your net score would be 72, even par at most courses. But that’s only if you’re an amateur. If you’re a pro, you compete without a handicap, or belly to belly as Ben Hogan once told a young pro. In golf, a pro is a pro is a pro. But, as Tiger Woods keeps proving, all pros are not created equal. Maybe it’s time to establish the Tiger Handicap Equalizer system . . . ” – Dave Anderson, The New York Times
Player feedback: “If you put Old Tom Morris with Tiger Woods, (Woods) would probably beat him by 80 shots right now. The guy is unbelievable, man. I’m running out of words. Give me a break.” – Ernie Els
Lasting image: Having shot 69 to get into a share of 26th place, Mark Calcavecchia signed his card and graciously offered his time to my question about this force of nature. “It wasn’t long ago when I said there’d never be another Jack Nicklaus, but we’re looking at one. (Woods) is it. He is the chosen one.”
June 15-18, Pebble Beach Golf Links; Pebble Beach, California
Woods shot: 65-69-71-67 – 272 (-12)
What happened: Total domination in utterly breathtaking wire-to-wire fashion. Woods authored the low round to start (65) and to finish (67), and shared low score in a second round that began on Friday and concluded on Saturday. Two rounds were bogey-free, including Sunday.
Writer’s perspective: “(Woods) now owns two of the 12 most lopsided victories in professional golf history. He missed by a single stroke tying the record for widest margin ever, in the hardest tournament there is. A potential rival? Save your candidate the embarrassment and hold your tongue with rivet tongs. There is but one, and there is no visible second, or even a third. Welcome again to one-man golf.” -- Ray Ratto, San Francisco Examiner
Player feedback: “These young guys, I feel for them. They’re taking a pounding from this guy.” – Nick Price
Lasting image: Never had I seen the media center so jammed on a Saturday night. But hardly anyone was grinding over the story for Sunday’s papers. No, sir. “This thing’s over,” a colleague told me and since everyone agreed, the place was packed because most of us were writing the lead for Monday’s paper.