Emotional third Open victory for Tiger Woods
After an absence of 39 years, The Open returned to Royal Liverpool. For many players, it was their first experience of the Hoylake links and day after day of intense heat had baked the course, producing fast-running fairways. A thunderstorm and heavy rain delayed the opening round by half an hour and it was precisely 7.00am when Peter Hedblom struck the first ball of the Championship.
The defending champion, Tiger Woods, had a promising start. An eagle at the 18th for a 67 left him just one shot behind the first day leader, Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, whose 66 was a new course record. Keeping Woods company were Greg Owen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Keiichiro Fukabori and Anthony Wall, the only player of the day to secure two eagles.
Woods used his driver only once during the four days of play — at the 16th on day one. Realising from his first practice round that he could drive over 370 yards, measures were needed to control the ball. His five wood was replaced with a two iron, although he would occasionally hit a three wood off the tee. His game plan was to keep the ball on the fairway and stay short of the bunkers.
Friday’s play set the stage for a dramatic weekend. Chris di Marco improved on McDowell’s record, shooting a 65 for an aggregate of 135. A birdie at the 11th for Woods took him to the top of the leaderboard for the first time. He also scored a 65, giving him an aggregate of 132 and a three-stroke lead. Ernie Els became the third player of the day to post a 7 under par round to close Woods’ lead to just one stroke.
Day three saw Woods and Els both score 71, but there were some low scores, which brought more challengers to the fore. On the inward nine, Woods three-putted three times and finished on 13 under. Equalling the course record with the fourth 65 of the week, Garcia climbed from 5 under to 12 under par. Els, whose short game kept him in contention, shared 2nd place with Garcia and Chris di Marco, who posted a 69. Jim Furyk and Angel Cabrera both scored 66 to end the day two shots behind Woods.
The final round drew to a much-anticipated conclusion, as Woods methodically fought off the chasing pack. His playing partner, Garcia, had lost the momentum of the previous day. Missing a short putt at the 2nd, his fortunes failed to improve and he finished with a 73 in joint 5th position with Hideto Tanihari. Four pars and a birdie at the 5th meant Els was tied with Woods on 13 under. Woods responded by holing the 5th from 12 feet for an eagle and a two shot lead. By his own admission, Els’ game lost direction when he bogeyed the 8th and 11th. He finished on 71 in 3rd place with a score of 275.
Di Marco, who went out in 35, level par, remained the only threat to Woods. He came within one shot of the leader, but at the par 4 14th hole looked to be in trouble after his three-iron approach landed in the rough. He rescued it with a superb putt from over 40 feet to save par. Woods raised his game to yet another level and secured a birdie. He birdied the next two holes, continually keeping di Marco just out of reach.
Di Marco’s closing round of 68, 16 under par, left him two shots behind Woods, who posted a 67 for an aggregate of 270. It was Woods’ 3rd Open Championship victory and 11th major title.