- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2000

"The last century was mine," observed legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, who during a golfing career spanning more than four decades has won 18 major professional golf tournaments, including four U.S. Opens. "Tiger can have this one." In utterly demolishing the competition at the 100th U.S. Open over the weekend, 24-year-old golfing phenom Tiger Woods proved yet again that he has the potential to become golf's most dominant player in history.

The only player among the 156 contestants in this year's U.S. Open to play below par at the famed Pebble Beach course, Woods shattered numerous records, including some set during the 1800s. His 15-stroke victory margin was the largest in history for any of golf's four major championships (the Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and the British Open). Golf commentator John Feinstein put Woods' 15-stroke victory margin in perspective. For the 10 U.S. Opens played in the 1990s, Feinstein noted, the cumulative margin of victory in regulation play was nine strokes. Amazingly, in a tournament known to pose the toughest putting challenges golfers face each year, Woods never needed more than two putts on any green.

Woods' U.S. Open performance was only the latest in a personal streak that has dominated professional golf as never before. During the past 13 months, he has won 15 tournaments worldwide, including six in a row on the PGA tour and five tournaments this year. He has won 12 of his last 21 tour events and 20 of the 95 he has played since turning pro in 1996. He has finished second seven times. In addition to having now established himself as the tour's best driver, iron player and putter, the unflappable Woods has long been the tour's toughest competitor under pressure. He has won 15 of the 16 tour events he has either led or shared the lead after 54 holes. Moreover, emulating the work ethic of Michael Jordan, Woods, by all accounts, is the tour's hardest worker.

Woods has now won three major championships. In 1997, shooting an unprecedented 18-under par, which broke the record set in 1965 by Nicklaus, the then-21-year-old Woods became the youngest golfer in history to win the Masters. And he did so by a record-shattering 12 strokes. Last year he won the PGA Championship. Next month at the British Open at St. Andrews golf course in Scotland, Woods has the opportunity to join Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Nicklaus by becoming only the fifth player in history to win professional golf's career Grand Slam, a feat Nicklaus achieved at the age of 26. Over the long term, Woods will be aiming at Nicklaus' 18 major titles and 71 tour victories, two of golf's most enduring records. Nobody else seems capable of stopping Woods. At the age of 24, Tiger Woods may well be the only golfer over the next two decades who has a chance of stepping between himself and destiny. Don't bet against him.

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