Posted by TAM FIOFORI on
WHILE environmentalists might lament that tigers are becoming extinct in the woods, there is one tiger that has come to stay and make his presence well remembered on the world’s.....
WHILE environmentalists might lament that tigers are becoming extinct in the woods, there is one tiger that has come to stay and make his presence well remembered on the world’s greens! This rare tiger is none other than Tiger Woods, who on Sunday 23rd July 2006 after shooting a four-round score of 270 at the Hoylake Royal Liverpool course, was announced as ‘‘ The Champion Golfer of the Year and World Champion’’, by the organisers of the 135th British Open Golf Champions. Tiger Woods had won the worlds oldest and most prestigious Open and Major for the third time to become the 19th person to achieve this feat since the Open was first played in 1860. He also became the third American to win the Open at Hoylake; the other two being Bobby Jones back in 1930 and Haggen before him. Woods, in addition, became the first golfer to win the Open back-to-back (2005 and 2006) since the 5-time Open winner, American Tom Watson who won in 1982 and 1983.
It was a tough Open for Tiger! The Open (as the British is snobbishly known) was being played at Hoylake the 2nd oldest links course built in 1869 and the 3rd oldest Golf Club in Britain and the world. The Open was last played at Hoylake in 1967, nine years before Tiger Woods was born. Among the celebrity guests present was Australian Peter Thompson, 5-time winner of the Open, who also won three in a row, the last being fifty years ago in 1956. Thompson’s prize money for winning in 1956 was Ł1,000 and the winner’s purse for 2006 was Ł720,000!
71 players including 2 amateurs made the 1-under cut including 5-time winner and oldest player Tom Watson, who incidentally had already won back-to-back Senior British Opens in 2004 and 2005.
Former winners who missed the cut included three-time winners Nick Faldo and Sevi Ballesteros, John Daly (1995) as well as 2005
runner-up and 5-times Majors runner-up Colin Montogomerie, Darren Clarke and a host of top players. Incredibly Majors-winner Vejay Smigh at +2 also missed the cut. Nonetheless, it was a very competitive high-quality field.
Irishman McDowell had led on day 1 with a record 66 to Wood’’s opening 67. Woods went out early on day 2 and shot a new record 65. He was however matched by Dimarco and Ernie Els who also shot 65. Retief Goosen shot 66.
At the end of day two, the leader board read Woods-12 Els-11, Dimarco-9 and Goosen-8. Also well-placed on the board were 1989 winner Calcavecchia, Jim Furyk, 2003 US Open winner and 2006 US Open runner-up, 2006 Masters Champion and 2006 US Open surprise winner Australia’s Geff Ogilvi and a host of eager contenders. Three South Africans, Els, Goosen and Sabbatini were in the top ten, made up of many players tying for positions. Interestingly, McDowell shot a dismal 75 on day two to drop down the board to 3.
Saturday July 22nd 2006 was definitely a day of the Tiger. All eyes and interest were on match 36 featuring 2-time winner Woods and one-time winner Els. Tiger had won both his Opens at St. Andrews in Scotland. Tigermania had infected the crowd at the Royal Liverpool. Young girls and boys held up hand written multi-coloured letters spelling T-I-G-E-R. BBC cameras framed a young fan with his face painted like a tiger alongside the BBC SPORT logo, then took a shot of Tiger Woods teeing-off and then back to an extreme close-up of the young painted tiger and he roared like a tiger into the camera. It was neat and creative!
Tiger stuck to his game plan, which meant he teed off using irons. By the third hole, a Tiger boogie and an Els birdie meant that they were both now at11 and Spanish wonderboy Garcia who had started earlier than them was also 11.
Two birdies put Tiger two ahead at 13. Tiger and Els both shot 35 for the front nine. However at the end of Day three, the leader board read Woods 13, Garcia with a 65 was 12, Els with a 71 was 12 and Dimarco with 69 was also 12.
The final day could not have been tougher. Woods was paired with Garcia for match 36 and before them in match 35 were Els and Dimarco. Woods led by just one stroke from the other three. Statistics were on Tiger’s side! Tiger had led 11 times after 54 holes in tournaments including Majors and had won 10 times! Quite a few pundits tipped Garcia or Els to beat Tiger. It was Dimarco though who scared Tiger.
Tiger eagled the 9th to make the turn in 33. Dimarco was playing inspired golf. By the 14th Tiger who was 15 and just one ahead of Dimarco birdied to move to two ahead. Dimarco birdied, then Tiger birdied three in a row and led by three. Dimarco birdied the 18th to shoot a 68. Tiger pared the 17th and just missed a birdie at the 18th to win by two; shooting a closing 67. So it closed at Woods 18, Chris Dimarco 16, Els 13.
As Tiger tapped in at the 18th, he flashed a big toothy smile and raised his two clenched fists to celebrate victory. Then, to much surprise, he hugged and cried on the shoulder of his New Zealand caddie Steve Williams, then, cried some more in the arms of his Swedish wife who rewarded him with a tender kiss and on to cry some more on the shoulder of his coach. It would seem that tough tigers also cry! The famous Claret Jug trophy and over one million US dollar prize money; swelling his total prize money to date to nearly US 73,000,000, finally dried Tiger Woods’ tears. Afterall, he had equaled Hagen’s record of 11 Major wins and was now only seven behind Jack Nicklaus.
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