- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

On opposite sides of the English Channel, two young Americans proved to the world on Sunday that they are the premier athletes in their sports. Indeed, they are peerless. In only his fifth year as a professional golfer, 24-year-old Tiger Woods became the youngest golfer in history to win all four professional major championships, rounding out his career Grand Slam achievement by winning the British Open on the fabled Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. Across the channel in Paris, 28-year-old Texan Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor whose doctors once gave him less than a 40 percent chance to live, successfully defended his 1999 Tour de France victory by capturing this year's 21-stage, 2,774-mile Tour de France, becoming only the second American cyclist to repeat as champion in the 87-year history of what many consider the most grueling major athletic event in all of sports.

On the links, Woods turned in his typically spectacular performance. Six weeks after winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Woods broke yet another major championship record at the British Open, finishing 19 strokes under par. In 1997, Woods won the Masters in Augusta, Ga., setting a Masters record by shooting 18 strokes under par. For three major championships the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open Tiger Woods now holds the records for the lowest score in relation to par.

In winning his 13th event in his last 23 starts on the PGA tour this one by a solid eight strokes, the biggest margin at the British Open since 1913 Woods played bogey-free golf during the first two rounds and finished the tournament with 22 birdies and only three bogeys. In short, it was another golfing clinic.

Armstrong was every bit as impressive in France, where he wore the yellow jersey the last 12 days of the tour, eventually winning a race it took him more than 92 hours to pedal by little more than 6 minutes. He continues one of the most miraculous athletic comebacks in all of sports history. In 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which had spread to his brain and lungs, requiring brain surgery and months of chemotherapy. Only the second American to win the Tour de France, Armstrong joins Greg LeMond, who won the race in 1986, 1989 and 1990, as a back-to-back winner. These two Americans have now prevailed in five of the last 15 Tours.

Woods is now preparing for the final major tournament, the PGA Championship, which will be held in Louisville in three weeks. Meanwhile, Armstrong's goal is winning a gold medal in cycling time trials at the Summer Olympics later this year in Sydney, Australia. After their sterling performances on opposite sides of the English Channel in recent days, with each displaying copious amounts of class and dignity in victory, cycling and golfing fans can look forward to still more heroics in the near future.

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