Tiger Woods at Pebble: 2000 US Open victory nearly shattered golf

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The man who followed Tiger Woods around Pebble Beach had won the Stanley Cup eight times and would hoist it again two years later. But he would keep the memories of that day. Scotty Bowman was the greatest coach in NHL history. He was also one of two official USGA scorers for the final group on the final day of Tiger Woods’ most successful performance of his career.

“I saw,” Bowman says now, “probably such a great game as you could ever see.”

Woods returns to Pebble Beach for a US Open this week, 19 years after winning the event by an incredible 15 strokes. Woods is 43 years old and is enjoying a career rebirth. Bowman is 85 years old and has lived 10 lifetimes of incredible sporting moments. Watching Woods decimate the pitch at Pebble is right at the top.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “You are quite close. I’ve seen a lot of athletes in my day, but you talk about concentration, when he’s playing golf… I’ve had a few players like that. Once the game starts, they are in an area.

Woods wasn’t the only one in an area that week. The fans were too. USGA Scores Supervisor Joe Wortley remembers an official scorer telling him this story that Saturday:

Woods’ playing partner Thomas Bjorn struck a finicky tee shot. Bjorn had to come off the ropes to reach his ball and hit his next shot. When Bjorn tried to get back on the ropes, fans wouldn’t let him in. They didn’t realize he was a golfer. They had been so focused on Tiger that they didn’t even recognize the guy associated with him.

That’s how Tigermania was back then. There was really nothing like it in sports. He was playing the same course at the same time as the other golfers, but he seemed to be playing a different sport.

To understand the magnitude of Woods’ greatest triumph, one must remember this: It was not known at the time that this would be his greatest triumph. Woods was only 24 years old. He had won the Masters by 12 strokes at 21, decided to rebuild his swing, then won the US Open by 15. He did so even though he had a triple bogey on Saturday. We knew he hadn’t just had a magical week.

He had reached a level that even Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams never reached. Woods was Secretariat and won the Belmont Stakes by 31 – if Secretariat could continue to compete in the Triple Crown races for another 30 years.

It was as if Tiger had broken the golf course.

Almost everyone who watched was in awe: the fans, other golfers, the world’s most famous athletes. The greatest coach in hockey history was no different. He just happened to be standing closer to Tiger on Sunday.

Woods didn’t really need to be in an area that day. He had a 10-stroke lead over his playing partner, Ernie Els. He was in an area anyway because he’s Tiger Woods. He vowed to himself that he wouldn’t make any buggy in the final round, an ambitious goal for anyone at the US Open, whatever the day. Bowman remembers Woods’ series of pars to start the round – nine in all. The coach would write down the scores after each hole, tear off a sheet to give to someone waiting behind the green, then run to the next tee, and then …

“Then,” said Bowman, “Tiger started getting birdies.”

Woods birdied 10, 12, 13 and 14. He didn’t need birdies, didn’t even really think about birdies, but he couldn’t help it. He finished, as he had promised himself, bug-free. He was playing conservatively, but his 67 was the lowest lap of the day.

Els then said: “Everything I say will probably be an understatement. It looks like we aren’t playing at the same stadium right now.”

Golf is not inherently a predictable sport. But Woods had made believe that was the case. He had yet to win the British Open, but he was playing so well that retired Royal Secretary and former Sir Michael Bonallack told SI’s John Garrity: ‘If he doesn’t win the British Open, he should be an investigation by the flight attendant.

Woods would win this Briton at St. Andrews by eight strokes. Bowman was there to watch him again. Even now, he remembers the statistic that defined the week: Tiger played 72 holes on the Old Course, which has 112 bunkers. He didn’t land in one.

Bjorn and Els were the unfortunate witnesses again. They are tied for second. Bjorn then said: “Someone is playing golf on another planet.” It was Tiger’s summer, the stretch where he went from freak to superstar to transcendent.

Bowman remembers stepping into the trailer behind Woods and Els after their last round at Pebble Beach. He described it as if it happened last week.

“Tiger was on the left and Ernie was on the right,” Bowman explains. “I was sitting next to Tiger. The Lady [scoring with Bowman] was next to me. We’re not here for an official reason, but they can ask us if they want to check.

Woods turned around and saw Bowman’s name on his credentials. They met last December in New York. Woods was so focused on his tour that he didn’t realize Bowman had been walking with him all day.

“Are you having a good time?” Woods asked.

Bowman replied, “Not as good as you.”


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