There is little doubting Tiger Woods’ capabilities as a golfer and understandably, the 43-year-old arrives at the Open Championship in Royal Portrush as one of the favourites to lift the Claret Jug. His record speaks for itself, with 15 major championship wins to his name, having added to his tally by winning the Masters for a fifth time earlier this year. Should Tiger be victorious in the Open later this month, it would be a fourth victory in golf’s oldest and most prestigious competition for one of the sport’s greats. So, while you decide whether or not he’s worth a punt, let’s take a look back at those three famous Open Championship wins.
2000: a first Open Championship and a career Grand Slam
Tiger arrived at St Andrews in 2000 as a 24-year-old, already with three majors to his name. That year, he’d already won the US Open at Pebble Beach, blowing the rest of the field out of the water and by claiming the Claret Jug just over a month later, he became the youngest player to complete a career Grand Slam.
Tiger recorded four sub-70 rounds (67 + 66 + 67 + 69) but had to come from behind, having ended the first round T2 with a score of five-under-par. After the second round, however, he built a commanding lead over the rest of the field; from three shots ahead of David Toms in round two, to eight shots ahead of Thomas Bjørn and Ernie Els by the fourth round.
Scoring 19-under-par, he achieved the lowest 72-hole score in major history – a record that stood until 2016, when Henrik Stenson shot a record 20-under-par.
2005: Woods’ wire-to-wire win and second career Grand Slam
After four years without a win at the Open Championship, with his best finish being T4 in 2003, Tiger proved why he was one of the best, with victory at St Andrews for a second time. This in turn, saw him complete his second career Grand Slam, while managing the feats of 10 major wins – the first time a player under 30-years-old had achieved this.
Tiger won his second Open Championship in spectacular fashion, leading after every round. From the off, he shot to a commanding lead, finishing round one six-under-par and a stroke ahead of Mark Hensby. Opening with 66, he went on to record further round scores of 66, 67 and 71 – and was rarely threatened by the rest of the field.
Interestingly, this win saw Tiger level with his childhood idol, Jack Nicklaus with two Open titles at St Andrews. The 2005 championship was Nicklaus’ final appearance, as he signed off at the age of 65, bidding farewell with a birdie.
2006: A hat-trick of successes and his best yet?
If he hadn’t already reached legend status, Tiger’s third win at the Open certainly sealed that, especially considering the circumstances. But what made it so special?
Well first of all, it proved that Tiger wasn’t this robotic super-power that a lot of people saw him as – things didn’t go his way during the tournament. While it was only the opening round that saw him T2 and he topped the leaderboard at the end of each subsequent round, shots didn’t go right and it was always a slender lead he had over the rest of the field. After beating Chris Di Marco by two strokes, Tiger became the first player since Tom Watson in 1982-83 to win successive Open Championship titles.
It was also the first tournament Tiger entered and the first major win since his dad’s passing and as he was congratulated but also comforted by his caddie, his speech at the end proved he was only human too: “Stevie (Williams) said to me as we were coming up the last, ‘this one is for dad’,” he said. “And then, after the putt, all these emotions just poured out of me. They have been locked in there.
“I just miss my dad so much. I wish he could have been here to witness this.
“He enjoyed watching me grind out major wins and this would have brought a smile to his face.”