At times, Tiger Woods made the Old Course at St. Andrews look ancient and obsolete. On a warm, breezy day, the No. 1 player in the world showed the same sort of dominating prowess that, for the second time here in five years, has brought him the British Open championship.
During a week of nostalgia when much of the early focus was on Jack Nicklaus in his final major championship, Woods brought golf back to reality by winning his 10th major championship with the sort of bravura performance that has marked so many of those triumphs.
At the sixth hole Sunday, Woods's approach shot bounced once and hit the flagstick. At the seventh, his second shot landed 10 feet from the hole and spun back, barely grazing the cup. At the eighth, he very nearly made a hole-in-one. With that sort of zoned-in shot-making, combined with booming drives and plenty of precision lag putts, Woods won a tournament, which he had led from start to finish, by five strokes.
He opened with 66 on Thursday and ended with a 2-under 70, his fourth sub-par round of the week, to secure a victory over Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and his second Open title in five years. The win also gave him at least two victories in each of the four major championships, a double career Grand Slam that only Nicklaus has accomplished.
"To have done both of them here [his two British titles], to complete my first career Grand Slam here and then to complete the second, both at the same place, that's as special as it gets," Woods said. "The home of golf. This is it. It doesn't get any sweeter than this."
Woods's 72-hole total of 14-under 274 did not threaten the record of 19-under 269 he set here at the 2000 Open. But Woods had no complaints after taking control of the tournament early on the back nine and playing soundly and safely down the stretch. Montgomerie, playing one group ahead, got within a shot of Woods with a birdie at the ninth hole but bogeyed three of his next seven for an even-par 72 and 9-under 279.
"That's never a disgrace, losing to the best player of our generation, by far," Montgomerie said. "That's 10 now. He knows, as well as everyone else knows, he's well on his way to Jack's 18 [major titles]. And that's a record we never thought would be broken."
Woods's only possible regret might involve last month's U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, where he bogeyed two of the last three holes and finished second, only two shots behind Michael Campbell. Not only did those transgressions cost him a chance to win the title, they will prevent him from having a go at the first professional grand slam in a single season by any golfer, male or female, at the PGA Championship next month at Baltusrol in New Jersey.
"That's just the way it goes," Woods said. "I just didn't have a very good putting week. It happened at the wrong time [at the U.S. Open]. But again, I take great positives out of that tournament. If you finish 80th in putting, you shouldn't be in contention to win the U.S. Open. I was right there with a chance."
This week, Woods tied for first in putting statistics and led the field in driving distance, at 341 yards off the tee. He also came here with the words of his swing instructor, Hank Haney, still very fresh in his mind.
"I told him the only way you don't come home with the British Open trophy is if you don't work enough on your putting," Haney said Sunday. "Everyone always keeps asking, 'Is he close? Is he there yet?' I don't think there is a 'there.' He just always wants to get better."
Woods is now third on the all-time list of professional major winners behind Nicklaus and Walter Hagen, who has 11. Nicklaus won his 10th at age 31 in his 35th major and his last at 46 at the 1986 Masters; Woods has 10 in 35 attempts at age 29.
Montgomerie has not even one, yet he stayed with Woods through the first 10 holes as potential contender after contender stumbled on the front nine. When Montgomerie reached the 352-yard No. 9 with his tee shot and two-putted from 22 feet for a birdie, he was only a shot behind for about 10 minutes.
Woods hit his tee shot at the ninth pin high about 40 feet from the hole and two-putted for a birdie that stretched his lead back to two. About 20 minutes later, Woods, playing in the final group with Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, made the first of two bogeys when he missed a 10-foot putt for par at the 380-yard No. 10 to slip to 13 under.
But up ahead, Montgomerie had made a serious mistake at the 174-yard No. 11. He hit a 6-iron when he probably should have hit a 7-iron. The wind switched in his face and he three-putted for a bogey. When Woods hit a perfect pitch from the rough to within three feet at the 348-yard No. 12, then made the birdie putt, his lead was three over Montgomerie and four over Olazabal, who bogeyed the 12th.
When Woods made another birdie to get to 15 under after the 618-yard 14th hole, his lead was five strokes over Montgomerie and six over Olazabal (74), who had four back-nine bogeys and tied for third with Fred Couples at 8-under 280.
Other big-name players never were able to mount an early charge. Retief Goosen, only three behind after 54 holes, had bogeys on three of his first five holes, shot 74 and tied for fifth. Vijay Singh, No. 2 in the world rankings and five behind when he started, posted even-par 72 and also tied for fifth on a day when pin placements were challenging and many rock-firm and fast greens made it difficult to hit approaches close to birdie range.
Woods, of course, got closest of all on a course he first played as an amateur in 1995, tying for 66th.
"I fell in love with it the first time I played it," he said after hoisting the Claret Jug in the shadow of the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse. "There are some courses you just feel comfortable on. I feel very comfortable around this golf course."