- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland The beating goes on.

Just a month removed from his landslide victory at the U.S. Open, golf titan Tiger Woods routed the field at the 129th British Open at St. Andrews yesterday, becoming the youngest player and just the fifth ever to complete the career Grand Slam.

Woods posted a final-round 69 on the 7,155-yard, par-72 Old Course to cement his stampede at St. Andrews, finishing with the lowest score in relation to par (19 under) ever at a major championship. And his victory at the 600-year-old home of golf gave him the final piece in the sport's coveted foursome of major championships: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship.

Woods joins Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as the only men who have won all four majors.

"Those are true champions right there," said Woods of that exclusive group. "They have won numerous, countless tournaments, really. They've been the cream of the crop. They've been the elite players, not only during their time but to ever play the game. To be in the same breath with those guys makes it very, very special."

More impressive, Woods also completed the Slam more quickly than the other four players. Woods reached the milestone at 24, two years ahead of Nicklaus' standard-setting pace. Nicklaus was 26 when he finished the quartet at the 1966 British Open.

Eclipsing Nicklaus' records has been Woods' goal ever since he put a timeline of the Golden Bear's victories above his bed as a 10-year-old prodigy.

Nicklaus amassed 18 major titles in his career; Woods earned his fourth yesterday. Despite that huge disparity, Woods is ahead of Nicklaus' pace. Even at his peak in 1972 and 1973, Nicklaus never dominated the game quite like Woods. Woods has won three of the past four majors, and he won his four majors by a mind-boggling total of 36 strokes.

"He's the chosen one. He is the best player who has ever played the game right now, and he is only 24," said 1989 British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia. "Jack Nicklaus was the greatest of all time, and he has the greatest record of all time… . But if Jack was in his prime today, I don't think he could keep up with Tiger."

It's difficult to argue with that assessment, considering the way Woods turned the most revered course in the world into the equivalent of a pitch-and-putt.

Woods made just three bogeys all week at St. Andrews. He hit 66 of 72 greens, avoided all 112 of the layout's bunkers, routinely drove two of the course's par-4 holes (Nos. 10 and 12) and recorded a tournament-long 386-yard drive yesterday at the par-5 fifth hole.

And though the elements were hardly a factor warm, practically windless days predominated at a place renowned for foul weather Woods was the only player in the 156-man field to post four rounds in the 60s.

"That's what I'm most proud of," said Woods, who opened the championship with a 67 and followed with field-frazzling rounds of 66, 67 and 69 to break Nick Faldo's British Open record of 18-under (1990 at St. Andrews). "To finally get the job done with four straight rounds in the 60s in a major championship is very special, especially when par is 72… . It is really hard to put into words the emotions and the feelings going through me and the thoughts that are running through my head."

If it's hard for Woods to express his emotions in victory, it is much harder for the rest of his fellow professionals to accept his relentless grip on the game.

"Even if I had played as good as I could, I don't think I would have [beaten] Tiger," said Ernie Els, who finished tied for second with Thomas Bjorn at 11 under.

Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, also finished second to Woods at last month's U.S. Open that time by a major record 15 strokes.

"It is [getting old watching Tiger dominate]. In one way it is incredible to watch a guy play so much better than the rest of the world. In another way, it is tough to sit down here and talk about him every time. I might have to get used to it… . What can you do? I am probably living in an era where we are going to see the next great player. We're already seeing that."

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