Tiger Woods was in a slump, or so some observers suggested, when he arrived at the Alpine Golf & Sports Club in Bangkok for the first event on The 2001 European Tour International Schedule. For the first time in 18 months, Woods had gone three tournaments without a win. The almond-eyed one, however, was flashing that famous toothy smile again as for the tenth time in a glittering, record-breaking year he strolled to victory.
With typical metronomic ease, Woods followed an opening 68 with three successive 65s for a 25 under par total of 263 to finish three shots ahead of the Australian Geoff Ogilvy and seven shots in front of New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, the defending champion.
“It’s always special to win in Thailand because it’s my mother’s home country and part of my culture and heritage,” said Woods. “It was great to get such a warm reception and see family and friends out there watching.”
Woods, of course, is always in demand as befits a man considered to be the most important sportsman since Muhammed Ali. In Thailand it was more so the case. Off the fairways, he still had time to accept an honorary degree and adopt an elephant. More importantly, he staged a clinic especially enjoyed by the 18 children who joined him on the range. He revealed to them: “This isn’t even my best year! That was when I was 11. I had the cutest girlfriend in school. They let us out to play three times a day. Oh, and I won 33 straight junior tournaments.”
Winning, of course, is now what matters, not the money, although that was not always the case. “I know how it feels to be on the outside,” he said. “I used to play in junior tournaments without a practice round because we couldn’t afford hotels.”
The practice range has become home from home for Woods. In Thailand, he moved through the now familiar routine - “I need only three practice swings on the range to determine what sort of day it’s going to be” - before setting off in search of the title. He managed six birdies in the first round but there were also a number of uncharacteristic errors so that by the end of the day he was in a share of fourth place as the Australian Wayne Smith led the way on 65. Nevertheless, Woods was reasonably happy since he had the worst of the conditions during the afternoon with a tricky breeze drying out the already firm greens.
By the end of the second day, Woods had moved into the lead with an 11 under par halfway total of 133 - one ahead of the Australian Rodney Pampling. Paul Lawrie, three shots behind after a 69, said: “You know Tiger is going to play well so you have to play even better. But there is no intimidation factor. You can’t change what he is doing, so you have to play your own game. He is the best player in the game by a long way, and I have great respect for what he is doing.”
Woods notched eight birdies against one bogey, coming home in 31, but he was outscored by Sergio Garcia, who followed an opening 74 with a 64. Woods said: “The greens were a lot more receptive than on the first day and there was no wind either.”
The third round produced a flawless exhibition from Woods. His 65 moved him to 198 and three ahead of Campbell, who set a new record for the course with a 63, and Pampling. Lawrie did move alongside Woods in the lead, but back to back bogeys early on his inward nine proved costly.
On the previous evening, Woods was behind the bar serving the sponsor’s product. There was more of a commotion on the course in the third round when a snake appeared at the 14th and caused brief panic in the gallery of more than 10,000 following the American.
Campbell’s confidence was high after his superb 63 and with four early birdies in the final round he launched a challenge on Woods. But he failed to get up and down from a tricky lie in the rough at the ninth where Woods made a six foot birdie putt to move four in front. Ogilvy, with four birdies in five holes from the tenth, took up the challenge but Woods chipped close for a birdie at the 14th then collected two more at the 16th and 17th to come home strongly.
Ogilvy said: “I have never started the weekend being two behind, shot 67 and 64 and lost by three. It’s ridiculous and that’s as good as I could play. All credit to Tiger. He is the best; he is the king.”Mitchell Platts
This article has been reproduced from The 14th Edition of The European Tour Yearbook which can be purchased at a special price direct via the Order Form.