Friday, 19 March 2010
Tiger Woods became only the fifth golfer in history – and the youngest - to complete the Grand Slam of all four majors titles when he captured the millennium Open Championship at the most appropriate venue, St.Andrews.

At the age of 24, and in only his fourth year as a professional, Woods maintained his insatiable urge to re-write the record books by turning the 129th Open into a triumphal procession similar to his runaway victory in the US Open.

Woods, who won at Pebble Beach by an extraordinary margin of 15 strokes - shot a final round of 69 for a 19 under par total of 269 – beating Nick Faldo’s record of 270 for St.Andrews in 1990 – and an overwhelming eight shot victory.

The World No.1 claimed the last missing link in his major quest in front of record crowds of 230,000 at the Home of Golf and joins Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the four most sought after titles in the sport.

Two European Tour Members, Ernie Els and Denmark’s Thomas Björn, played superbly to share second place on 277, 11 under par, but the 2000 Open at St.Andrews was dominated once more by the game’s dominant figure.

Björn, who enjoyed his highest finish in a major, commented: “I had a great tournament. Any time you shoot four rounds under par in a major you’ve done well but Tiger’s playing different golf. There’s nothing you can say. He deserves it very much and is the best player in the world at the moment.”

Woods now holds three of the four majors – the US PGA in 1999 and the two national Opens in the United States and Britain in 2000 – to add to the Masters title he collected in his first full season as a professional in 1997.

As the great Jack Nicklaus said farewell to the Open, 22 years after the second of his two wins at St.Andrews, one legend made way for another as Woods confirmed the widely-held view that he may one day surpass the achievements of the Golden Bear.

After an opening round of 67, which left him one behind Els, Woods had the famous old Claret Jug in his sights. He followed up with a 66 to move into a lead which he never really looked like relinquishing.

He led his playing partner, World No.2 David Duval, by six shots going into the last day after another 67, and history was duly rewritten shortly before 7pm on Sunday evening as he two-putted the last to complete the Championship with four rounds in the sixties.

Els, with a closing 69 and Björn, who carded a commendable 71, took the runners-up honours – Els for the third successive major. Tom Lehman, the 1996 champion, shot a 70 and David Toms 71 to share fourth position on 278, ten under par.

However the millennium Open will be remembered for four days of stunning weather, record crowds and, above all, a champion destined to live on in the pantheon of golfing greats.

Duval, still seeking his first major, made a genuine contest of the last day, birdieing four of the first seven holes to halve Woods’ 54-hole lead to just three strokes. However Duval’s challenge came to an end around the famous Old Course ‘loop’. Woods drove the tenth and made a birdie three and repeated the feat at the 12th to pick up another shot as Duval ran up a bogey five. It was the straw which broke the camel’s back.

The World No.2 suffered a horrendous inward half of 43 after his ball came to rest against the face of the Road Hole bunker and he required four shots to extricate himself from the most famous hazard on the course. An eight left him sharing 11th position.

Woods took a deep breath as he cradled the Claret Jug in front of the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse and commented: “This has been a very special week, something I will never, ever forget, to have the chance to complete the Grand Slam at St.Andrews, the Home of Golf.

“These people I’ve joined are true champions, who have won countless titles and they have been the cream of the crop, the elite players who have played the game, and to be mentioned in the same breath as them makes it very special.”

Els now moves above Darren Clarke in the Volvo Order of Merit and he said: “I suppose you could say I’m going for the ‘second place Slam’! I’m playing a different tournament from Tiger. Even if I had played as well as I could I don’t think I would have got to 20 under to beat him.”

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