Tiger Woods wins the millennium Open in magnificent style
For the twenty-sixth time, The Open returned to the Old Course, St Andrews. The Millennium Open, held at ‘the home of golf’ was expected to attract large crowds. Tiger Woods was on excellent form and was also predicted to increase spectator interest. The 24 year old was the crowd’s clear favourite to win. What they didn’t perhaps expect was the superior level of golfing skill he would display.
The first day dawned mild and sunny, perfect playing conditions for the competition. Woods did not disappoint, scoring an opening 67, five under par. American Steve Flesch matched this score and Ernie Els played an even better round, with 66. The scores reflected the playing conditions; seven players finished on 68 and fifteen on 69. Notah Begay played an astonishing round. By the 17th, he was 8 strokes under par. At this hole, however, he played into the Swilcan Burn and made the unusual decision to play from the water. He dropped three strokes, and finished with 69.
The second day again produced excellent playing conditions. Els, however, suffered from inaccurate putting during this round and, with a score of 72, dropped to sixth place. The little known American David Toms scored 67 and moved up into second place. Low scores were again common — 27 players broke 70 and 39 others went round under par. The day however belonged to Tiger. He produced a brilliant 66, propelling him three strokes into the lead at halfway.
Perfect weather greeted the players on the third day and crowds turned up once again in their thousands to watch. Tiger again did not disappoint, scoring 67 to move to 16 under par and doubling his lead to 6 strokes. This was despite scoring his first bogey in championship golf since the third round of the US Open, at the 2nd hole. It seemed that no one could challenge him, though many tried. David Duvall went round in 66, after previous rounds of 70 and 70. He moved into tied second place. Steve Flesch also played excellent golf and was at one point within a stroke of Tiger. Toms, playing in his first Open, also started well. Partnered with Woods, he too came to within a stroke of the lead but finished seven shots behind. Els found the gorse at the 12th hole and struggled to produce 70 for the round. Although the competition seemed a forgone conclusion, a final day of golf was still to be played.
The crowds poured onto the course again on the Sunday, and the Championship saw its highest ever attendance figures. The chasing field could only conceivably catch Woods if he faltered. Duval, who was paired with Woods for the final round, started quickly and closed the gap to three shots after seven holes. That was as close as he got. Woods birdied the 10th and 12th holes and when Duval bogeyed that hole, the contest was all but over. Woods’ final margin of victory was eight strokes ahead of Thomas Björn and Els, with a score of 269. Woods became the third winner to score all four rounds in the 60s. Remarkably, he did not find a single bunker during the four days of the Championship.