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.
Source: PGA tour