By Steve Keating
PEBBLEBEACH, Calif. (Reuters) – Much has changed since Tiger Woods romped to a record 15-stroke victory at the 2000 U.S. Open at scenic Pebble Beach.
In the ensuing 19 years, Woods’ body has been battered and surgically repaired, equipment has improved and his hairline is receding. However, the Pebble Beach Golf Links has remained pretty much unchanged and so has Woods’ strategy as the U.S. Open returns to the breath-taking coastal California course.
“That part really hasn’t changed that much,” said Woods during his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday. Because of the golf ball is going further than it did back in 2000, I’m slower than I was in 2000.
“I am about the same distance, so the golf course really doesn’t play that much differently for me.
“It’s just a matter of putting the ball in the right spots.”
Before things turn serious with start of first round play on Thursday, Woods allowed himself a pleasant stroll down memory lane as he recalled what is arguably the greatest performance in the game’s history.
At the height of his powers, a then 24-year-old Woods demolished the field with a tournament for the ages. He won his first U.S. Open by what remains the biggest winning margin in major championship golf.
“It’s crazy. It’s been 19 years,” reminisced Woods. “I still remember most of the shots I hit that week.
“It was just one of those weeks where I don’t know how I pulled it off, but on seaside poa annua, I never missed a putt inside 10 feet for a week.
“It happened to be a very special week. I made everything.
“And not only that, I was hitting it well. And when I did miss it, I missed it in all the correct spots.”
Now 43, Woods has reached the stage of his career where each victory carries more significance.
In April, the former-world number one completed one of sport’s great all-time comebacks when he ended an 11-year major title drought with a inspiring win at the Masters.
A win on Sunday would give Woods his 82nd PGA Tour title and leave him two shy of Jack Nicklaus’s major record of 18.
Even if he fails to achieve either of those milestones this week, a buoyant Woods reckons time is still on his side with 10 years and 40 majors left to achieve his Holy Grail.
“If I keep progressing how I am physically and how I’m getting better and better physically the last couple of years, I just need to give myself chances,” said Woods. “Hypothetically, let’s say I give myself 10 years.
“That’s 40 major championships. That’s a lot of majors.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)