How Tiger Won the U.S. Open by 15 Shots
It was arguably the most dominant performance in the history of sports.
In a week where the field scoring average was around 75.4, Tiger Woods finished the 100th United States Open at 12-under-par. He was 15 shots ahead of the two men to finish runner-up, Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
And somehow, it was only a harbinger of what was to come: Woods would win the remaining two major championships that year – The Open Championship at St Andrews and the PGA at Valhalla. Then in April of 2001, Tiger would win The Masters, becoming the only player in the modern era to hold all four professional major championship trophies simultaneously.
Nineteen years later, Woods returns to a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Though his achievements that week in 2000 are a lifetime ago, his play this season makes it seem like a not-too-distant memory: Tiger has hit 72.9 percent of his greens in regulation this season. Two of the three times he entered the U.S. Open with a higher percentage – 2000 and 2008 – he went on to win the championship.
How exactly did Tiger pick apart Pebble that week? The statistical path Woods took is nearly as jarring as the final result.
Off The Tee
In the 2000 PGA Tour season, there were only two players who averaged 290 yards or more off the tee: John Daly (301.4) and Woods (298.0). Woods’ driving accuracy at the time was better than average, too – he hit 71% of his fairways, or about 4% more than the PGA Tour mean. That added up to Tiger leading the Tour in total driving for the season, just ahead of David Duval.
For the week at Pebble Beach, Duval finished first in total driving, while Woods was second. But a 24-year-old Tiger’s distance was staggering that week: he averaged 299.3 off the tee – 29 yards further than the field average, and seven yards further than his nearest contemporary, Duval.
Woods entered the U.S. Open hitting 74.1% of his greens in regulation, best on the PGA Tour. The previous season, Duval was the leader entering the season’s second major, but with a total of 70.8 percent. That separation from his peers would continue for Tiger at Pebble.
For the week, Woods led the field with 51 greens in regulation, SEVEN more than any other player. While the field averaged 48.4% greens in regulation, Tiger hit 70.8% – a margin of more than 22 percent.
Even with a ten-shot lead entering the final round, Woods somehow hit another gear that Sunday. He would hit 15 greens in regulation in the final round, most of any player in the field.
Tiger had above average putting statistics for the 2000 season when he headed to Pebble Beach: he was 16th in putts per GIR and 86th in putts per round. He was below average in three-putt avoidance – ranking 119th – but ranked fifth in birdie conversion percentage.
But Woods’ putting was elite that week in California. Tiger averaged 1.63 putts per green in regulation for the week, the best for any U.S. Open winner over the last thirty years. Despite leading the field in greens hit, Woods was tied for sixth in the field for the tournament in one-putts, with 34. And as for three-putts? He had zero for the tournament.
Woods was 4-under on the par 5s for the week, tied for the best score in the field with seven other players. On the par 3s and 4s, though, Tiger had absolutely no peers.
Woods played the par 3s and 4s in 8-under-par for the week. That was 13 strokes better than any other player – both Michael Campbell and Tom Lehman each played them in 5-over.
There were three bogey-free rounds all week at the 2000 U.S. Open. Two belonged to Tiger – his opening round 65 and final round 67 were both blemish-free. The other belonged to Joe Daley, who after opening with 83, shot 69 in the second round to miss the cut by three shots.
Tiger made only seven bogeys or worse for the championship. The field had a combined 137 different rounds that week with at least seven bogeys or worse.
This week will be the 450th professional major championship in history, as the four tournaments are currently defined. There are four instances in men’s professional major championship history where a player won by a dozen or more strokes. Tiger has two of them, the 2000 U.S. Open (a 15 shot margin) and the 1997 Masters (12 shots).
The other two instances are by Old Tom Morris at the 1862 Open Championship and his son, Tom Morris Jr., eight years later. Not to disparage two legends of the sport, but in both instances by the Morrises, the course was only 12 holes and there were fewer than 20 players in the field.
What Woods did at Pebble Beach 19 years ago will never be matched. We should remember it – and celebrate it – when the opportunity presents itself.