Tiger Woods lapped the field and made history in winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif. He led from the start to finish, was the only player under par, and won byt an incredible 15 strokes.
Woods finished at 12-under-par 272, 15 strokes ahead of Ernie Els and Miguel Angle Jimenez, who tied for second at 3-over-par 287. Woods led by one stroke after the first round (65), by six after the second (134) and by 10 after the third (205).
How good was he?
He played the first 22 holes and the last 26 holes without a bogey, and didn't have a single 3-putt green all week. He made 21 birdies for the week; one of them coming when he reached the par 5 524-yard sixth hole with a drive and 205 yard 7-iron from the 5" rough.
The rest of the field was making an average of five bogeys per round; Woods made just six all week!
"To win our Open championship is a great feeling," said Woods shortly after his win. "It's just incredible. You think back to all of the hard work you put in and the times as a kid, imagining that you're trying to beat the best players in the world. And then to come up the 18th knowing that all you need to do is stay alive to win. It's just incredible!"
"If you want to watch a guy win the U.S. Open playing perfectly, you've just seen it this week," said two-time Open champion Els, who shot 72-while paired with Woods for the final round.
"It's tough going for second place and being so far behind," Els continued. "If I'd played out my mind today, I probably still would have lost by five or six or seven. Hey, Tiger is unbelievable!"
Woods made his move early, shooting a bogey-free 6-under 65 for his first round. It proved to be the low round of the week, and it gave him a one-stroke lead over Jimenez.
Foggy conditions delayed play on Friday, and Woods managed only 12 holes before his second round was halted by darkness. Still, he finished birdie-birdie and slept on a six-shot lead over Jimenez. He slipped just a bit in playing the last six holes in 1-over-par early the next morning - bogeying both remaining par 5s - but held his lead.
After rounds of 74-73, Els climbed up the leaderboard with a 3-under 68 in his third round, climbing from 37th to second. It was the only sub-par round on a windy afternoon. Woods carded an even par 71 that would have been better except for a triple-bogey 7 on the short third hole.
His short approach shot buried in the front greenside bunker. It took him two to just get out, then he chipped on and 2-putted. No problem, however. He recovered to birdie holes 6 and 7 and the rout was back on. For good measure, he birdied the hardest hole, the par 4 9th when only 12 players even found the green in regulation.
"I felt calm and at ease with myself this week, no matter what happened," said Woods. "I always kept my composure and focused on the shot I needed to hit."
While this Open was a measure for the greatness of a young player, it also was a farewell for Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest player of his era. Nicklaus shot a nifty 73 for his opening round, but slipped to an 82 on Friday afternoon. Still, there were thousands who cheered as he gave the fans one last Open memory. He ripped a 3-wood 240 yards into a strong cross wind to reach the par 5 final hole in two shots.
"Pebble Beach has always been a great part of my life," said Nicklaus, who has played 44 consecutive Opens with four wins.
Oddly, however, four 50 something golfers made the 63-player cut - Hale Irwin(T27), Tom Watson (T27), Tom Kite (T32) and 1999 Senior Open champion Dave Eichelberger (T57). Besides Woods, Irwin was the only other golfer with two rounds in the 60s. He had 68 to start and 69 to close but 78-81 in between, Jeffrey Wilson, who finished 59th, was the only amateur to make the cut.
It was also a time to remember fallen 1999 champion Payne Stewart, who was honored with a tribute ceremony on Wednesday morning.
Starts - 11
Best Finish - Winner 2000, 2002
Rds - 41
Cuts Made - 10
Top 3 - 4
Top 5 - 4
Top 10 - 4
Top 25 - 9
Scores in 60s - 13
Rds Under Par - 13
Earnings - $3,024,921.10