Tiger Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California by 15 strokes. One detail often overlooked in reflections on Woods' historic romp: He almost ran out of golf balls.
Tiger Woods authored perhaps the most dominant performance in golf history in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California. He muscled approach shots from the rough, putted with a surgeon’s touch and steamrollered the field by 15 strokes, a feat no less staggering a decade later.
One detail often overlooked in reflections on Woods’ historic romp: He almost ran out of golf balls.
It happened on the 18th hole of the fog-delayed second round, on a Saturday morning. Woods already held a commanding lead when he hooked his tee shot into Carmel Bay, prompting him to unleash a burst of profanity captured live on NBC’s telecast.
Imagine the language Woods would have used had he known the ball then given to him by caddie Steve Williams was the last in his bag. Williams panicked when he discovered this and didn’t tell Woods, fearing his boss would “freak out,” according to one source who recently confirmed the incident.
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Woods later acknowledged he didn’t learn of the near-gaffe until after he completed the hole.
“Stevie said, ‘I’d like for you to hit an iron, just to get it into play,’ ” Woods once said. “But I was swinging well, so I went with driver. Obviously, I didn’t know the complete situation: The only ball I had left was the one I teed up.”
Woods apparently took three balls out of his bag the previous night to practice putting on his hotel-room carpet. He forgot to put those balls back in his bag and figured he probably scuffed a couple of others on the course and gave them to kids in the gallery.
So he was down to two golf balls, and then one, on No. 18.
Another crazy layer to the story: Woods, in retrospect, assumed he would have been disqualified if he ran out of golf balls.
Meanwhile, Williams thought otherwise and planned to sprint to the pro shop to buy more if Woods hit another tee shot into the water.
As it turns out, according to a USGA rules official, a player can borrow a ball from another player or an “outside agency,” provided it is the same brand and type he was previously using. If Woods had failed to obtain another ball without “undue delay,” he would have incurred a two-stroke penalty.
Put another way: He still wins by a country mile.
Woods, age 24 at the time, overwhelmed Pebble Beach with an astonishing display of power and precision. He didn’t three-putt all week, dominated the field despite taking a third-round triple bogey on No. 3 and launched himself toward the Tiger Slam, with victories in the British Open and PGA Championship later that year and the Masters in April 2001.
“That was probably the most remarkable tournament in the history of American golf, to win by 15 shots,” Tom Watson said recently. “He emasculated the golf course.”
Woods takes aim on Pebble again when the Open begins Thursday.
Woods’ signature shot in the 2000 Open was his second on No. 6, an uphill par-5 hole along the water, in the second round. Woods lifted his blind, 7-iron shot out of thick rough, over the edge of Stillwater Cove and onto the green more than 200 yards away. “It just isn’t a fair fight,” NBC commentator Roger Maltbie said.
Woods shot 65-69 to open a six-shot lead at the halfway point and cruised home in 71-67 to finish at 12 under. And Pebble was hardly a pushover that week, as no other player broke par — Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez tied for second place at 3 over.
“Finishing second is good,” Els said at the time while smiling, “but it’s kind of embarrassing being 15 shots back.”