ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - As Tiger Woods lined up his final putt last night in the 129th British Open, he was not thinking about the records he was about to break or the championship he was to win or the streaker who had momentarily interrupted his celebration as he walked down the 18th fairway at the Old Course.
At 19-under par for the tournament, Woods wasn't thinking about breaking Nick Faldo's Open scoring record but about the challenge he had presented himself after winning last month's U.S. Open by a record 15 strokes. It was also the only void that had been left in the wake of his history-making 12-stroke victory three years ago in the Masters.
"I couldn't care less about the record. All I wanted to do was four straight rounds in the 60s," said Woods, who had bogeyed the previous hole but was still ahead of Faldo's record of 18-under par, set here in 1990. "That is something I did not do at Pebble Beach and I did not do at Augusta. I came very close, but it did not happen.
"To finally get the job done with four straight rounds in the 60s in a major championship is very special, especially when par is 72."
In a scene that was reminiscent of what transpired when he became the first player of color to win the Masters, Woods was staring at a 4-foot putt for par. With his second straight major championship and fourth major of his career secured, providing him with both the treasured Claret Jug and his place among some of the game's greatest legends, Woods faced his toughest competitor.
After carefully studying the break, Woods calmly buried the putt and gave one of his trademark fist pumps to put an exclamation point on his eight-shot victory. As he had done to Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd at Augusta three years ago, as he had done to Old Tom Morris last month at Pebble Beach, Woods erased Faldo from the record books.
With a 3-under par 69 - which followed rounds of 67, 66 and 67 - Woods put together another performance for the ages. His four-round total of 19-under par 269 was one stroke better than the previous record for a major championship, set by Faldo here and equaled by Woods at the 1997 Masters.
"I think I've had my share of success as a junior, as an amateur and then a pro," said Woods, who at 24 became the youngest player ever to compete a career Grand Slam. "I think if you are going to have the success I've had, you learn from winning and you learn from losing. I've made my share of mistakes. I guess there's no substitute for understanding what it takes to win a tournament."
Woods certainly made few mistakes during the four rounds here. Though he watched playing partner David Duval cut a six-shot deficit in half with birdies on four of the first seven holes, Woods simply waited for his opportunity. It came on the par-4 10th hole, when Woods made a 10-foot birdie putt and Duval missed a putt from a similar distance for birdie.
As Woods waited to putt for eagle on the short par-4 12th hole, a fan in the bleachers yelled, "Don't pull a Van de Velde," alluding to the faux pas or four committed last year by the Frenchmen who lost a three-shot lead on the final hole of regulation in the British Open at Carnoustie. In truth, it was Duval who would shoot himself in the foot and out of the tournament.
"The way he was talking on the tee [at the 12th], I thought he was in trouble," Duval said of Woods. "Then I hit a nice drive down there to the right and I thought I had a pretty good pitch, and now you're in position that is difficult at least to two-putt. So there's another bogey and just coupled with the birdie [Woods made after missing the eagle putt], it put me six back at the time and at that point it is obviously too large a deficit with six holes to play."
The deficit would grow to seven shots when Duval bogeyed the par-4 13th after finding a bunker. It was eight when Woods hit his second shot just short of the green on the par-5 14th and two-putted over a mound from 35 feet for birdie. It was nine after Duval bogeyed the par-4 16th hole. Woods made his only bogey after hitting short of the green on the par-4 17th Road Hole.
Woods would eventually make his final par to finish eight shots ahead of two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark. It was the largest margin of victory in a British Open in 92 years. Duval dropped from second to tie for 11th when he quadruple-bogeyed the par-4 17th hole.
"It is really hard to put into words the emotions and feelings going through me and the thoughts running through my head," Woods said. "To have an opportunity to play with David, and when he got off to such a wonderful start, and have Ernie and Thomas up there and a lot of players playing well, it was nice to be able to have the opportunity to play some great champions. To come out on top makes it even more special."
Said Duval: "It was a spectacular performance to say the least. He simply did not make the mistakes and capitalized on the holes you would expect him to capitalize on."
Woods played differently than he had in any of his three previous major championship victories.
He didn't putt nearly as well as he did in Augusta. He didn't have anything more than a bogey - three to be exact - as happened when he nearly blew a six-shot lead down the stretch to Sergio Garcia of Spain in the PGA Championship last summer at Medinah. He didn't drive the ball as well as he did last month at Pebble Beach.
"To win a major championship is a different thought process and a different understanding of the game," Woods said. "Most majors you're going to have to go out there and understand that par is a wonderful score. Most tour events you go out and shoot 4- or 5-under and you're four or five behind.
"Look how many times guys get off to such quick starts. Look how many times in the past two years guys have been 17-under for two rounds; that doesn't happen in a major. That's a credit to how the course is set up. It brings out the best in players; guys who can strike the ball the best, keep their emotions in check and make the big putts, they're going to be right at the top."
Woods wasn't trying to describe himself, but there isn't anybody who can do all the things he can. He did it at Augusta three years ago, before he and longtime coach Butch Harmon overhauled Woods' swing. He did it at Medinah last summer, where he and caddie Steve Williams showed how well they work together. He did it at Pebble Beach and now at St. Andrews.
In doing so, Woods joins a list that includes the four other players to have completed a career Grand Slam: Nicklaus, who won his first major when he was 22 and his fourth at 26; Gene Sarazen, who won his first major at age 20 but didn't win his fourth until he was 33; Gary Player was 29 and Ben Hogan was 40 when they completed their career Slams.
"Those are true champions right there," said Woods, who declined to talk about his place in history until last night. 'They've been the cream of the crop. They've been the elite players to ever - not only during their time - but to ever play the game. To be mentioned in the same breath as those guys makes it very special. Very special."
For now, and perhaps for a while, Woods has only one rival. It was the guy he faced on the 18th green, as he stared at a 4-foot par putt shortly after the streaker was led away. It was not Duval or Els or anyone who barely challenged him here. It was not Faldo or Nicklaus or even Old Tom Morris, trying to hold onto their place in the record books.
It was Woods himself.
And by making that putt for his fourth straight round in the 60s, he proved very tough to beat.
Score: 18-under-par 270
Margin of victory: 12 shots
Score: 11-under-par 277
Margin of victory: 1 shot
Score: 12-under-par 272
Margin of victory: 15 shots
Score: 19-under-par 269
Margin of victory: 8 shots
U.S. Open: 1922, '32
British Open: 1932
PGA Championship: 1922, '23, '33
Masters: 1951, '53
U.S. Open: 1948, '50, '51, '53
British Open: 1953
PGA Championship: 1946, '48
Masters: 1961, '78
U.S. Open: 1965
British Open: 1959, '68
PGA Championship: 1962
Masters: 1963, '65, '66, '72, '75, '86
U.S. Open: 1962, '67, '72, '80
British Open: 1966, '70, '78
PGA Championship: 1963, '71, '73, '75, '80
A major milestone
The lowest cumulative scores under par in a major:
Golfer ................ Event ............Year .................par
Tiger Woods ..........British Open ...... 2000 ................19
Tiger Woods ............Masters ..........1997 ................18
Nick Faldo .............British Open .......1990 ................18
Steve Elkington .....PGA Championship .....1995 ...............17
Colin Montgomerie.. PGA Championship .....1995 ...............17
Ray Floyd ...............Masters ...........1976 ...............17
Jack Nicklaus ...........Masters ...........1965 ...............17