By Lewine Mair, London Daily Telegraph
The 2005 Open Championship at St. Andrews provided an experience on which the 233,000 or so spectators will draw for the rest of their days. They saw the 65-year-old Jack Nicklaus playing his last rounds in a championship career taking in 18 professional majors. And they saw the 29-year-old Tiger Woods mirroring Nicklaus' class as he won a 10th.
For the locals, there was the additional, two-fold satisfaction of seeing Colin Montgomerie finishing second, along with the Old Course emerging with her dignity intact after so many had warned that she might be ripped apart.
On paper, Wood's five-shot win had the ring of a runaway affair.
Yet, as Woods himself said of the last day, "anything could have happened out there." The two-shot lead he had held over José Maria Olazábal after three rounds was down to one when the Spaniard holed from 33 feet for his 3 at the 480-yard fourth. Then, when Olazábal faded, Woods had to shrug off a Montgomerie advance that took the shape of an outward 3-under-par 33.
Woods made the turn at 14-under par but was only one ahead of Montgomerie when, in what many saw as a tactical error, he went for the green at the 380-yard 10th and wound up with a bunkered 5.
However, after Montgomerie had suffered something of a reaction to his early heroics by hitting through the green of the short 11th en route to a 4, Woods was able to forge ahead again. At the 12th, a hole he deemed "pivotal," he stared his eight-foot birdie putt into the cup as only he can.
By the time Montgomerie had missed a six-footer at the 13th and Woods had made a birdie down the long 14th, the trophy engraver could safely have picked up his tools.
Woods' only opponents down the stretch were the Road Hole bunker and the Valley of Sin. Short of the Road Hole bunker in two, the World No. 1 opted to putt round this sandy nightmare. As for his visit to the Valley of Sin, that was nothing more than a minor jolt.
His mother, Kultida, had been invited to sit on the R&A members' bench in order that she and her daughter-in-law, Elin, would have the best possible view of the finale. As Kultida watched Woods' ball slip back into the Valley of Sin, she had a quick gulp of her drink but, in no time at all, her son had secured his par to have the 2005 Open finishing on a suitably high note.
When Steve Williams, Woods' caddie, put the flagstick back in the hole, it was minus the flag. Williams would have wanted something to remind him of a week in which Woods had peppered one of his finest ball-striking weeks with a seemingly never-ending supply of grit.
His hands safely on the Claret Jug, Woods, who had equalled Bobby Jones' haul of 13 assorted amateur and professional majors, wasted no time in paying tribute to Montgomerie. "Look how well he played," he marvelled. He admired the Scot's straight driving and he admired his judgment of distance with the irons.
And, yes, he believed that he could still win a major.
Woods also talked warmly of the Old Course and how he had fallen in love with her at first sight. He has always revelled in a good fight and, in pitting his wits against the most famous course of them all in the Opens of 1995, 2000 and 2005, he said he never found her more of a challenge than in 1995.
There was a day, then, when he had to play into the wind all the way out and into the wind all the way back.
Before 2005, it was suggested that the fine weather could work in collusion with new technology to have someone breaking 60 -- and that in spite of the fact that several holes had been lengthened. R&A officials would have been holding their breath as Woods arrived at 7-under after 12 holes on the Thursday morning, but he was twice bunkered over his last six on his way to a 66. The fact that Woods, who had avoided all the bunkers in 2000, had caught a total of three bunkers over the day, had the R&A quietly confident that their changes had worked.
Woods' opening run apart, the Thursday stood out for the two minutes when there was no golf. At 12 o'clock, at a time when Woods was three-quarters of the way down the 618-yard 14th, the siren sounded for a silent tribute to the victims of the previous week's terrorist activities in London.
Later, when Woods was asked for his thoughts during that period, he took his audience by surprise as he explained how, for him, it had been a time for thanksgiving.
His mother had been staying at a hotel over the road from one of the explosions.
"I was very thankful that my mom is still here," he said. "It could very easily have been pretty tragic for me. I can only imagine what it must have been like for those who lost a loved one or had loved ones hurt."
The world's press wanted more details. In telling them what he knew or, rather, what he did not know, Woods gave a revealing little insight into his family. Extraordinarily enough, it had been Hank Haney, his coach, rather than his mother, who had told him of the narrow escape.
"My mom," said Tiger, "didn't mention it until I asked -- and even then she quickly switched the conversation to my golf. That's kind of how our family is. If you're injured or you're sick or anything, you don't tell anyone. You just deal with life and move on.
"When my dad had cancer," he added, "he didn't say anything. When I had my knee surgery, I didn't say anything."
When night fell, Woods' 66 was one better than a late-night return from Australia's Mark Hensby. The latter, in turn, was one shot ahead of a group that included three major champions in Retief Goosen, José Maria Olazábal and Fred Couples.
On Friday, all eyes were on Nicklaus and Woods.
While Nicklaus evoked so many memories in his farewell round, Woods kept the excitement intact as he built on his opening 66.
Nicklaus came close to giving himself two more days in a town which he has always described as "my favorite place to play golf."
He was 2-over par leaving the 10th green but, when he dropped a shot at the 12th and another at the 17th, it became clear that the photographers were in no danger of incurring the great man's wrath by asking him to pause for pictures on the Swilcan Bridge. He was not about to make the cut.
Nicklaus stood, he waved, and he called for his playing companions -- Tom Watson and Luke Donald -- to join him for photographs that will no doubt have pride of place in their end-of-career albums. The Swilcan pictures apart, Nicklaus was featured on a Royal Bank of Scotland five-pound note that was issued for Open Championship week.
Long queues formed at the bank's headquarters in the tented village, with Todd Hamilton, the defending champion, among those spotted in the seemingly endless line. Hamilton, who had opened with a 74 and went on to miss the cut, had been advised that someone would sort him out with a Nicklaus fiver if he popped round to a side door but he refused. He wanted to share in the same Open experience as everyone else.
As the roar for Nicklaus was carrying down the links, Woods was on his way to a second-round 67 which took him to 11-under par at the halfway stage and four ahead of Montgomerie.
The latter, though he had opened the championship with a drive that splashed into the Swilcan, had had three birdies in his last five holes to attach a 66 to his opening 71.
Montgomerie's was an achievement to have everyone pondering on how he would perform alongside Woods in the third round. In the 1997 Masters, when the two were paired, Woods handed in a 65 while the Scot had a 74 in which, literally and metaphorically, he was all over the place. He admitted that he had been completely thrown by the then 21-year-old Woods. The following day, Woods went on to win the first of his 10 majors by a little matter of 12 shots.
At St. Andrews, Montgomerie tentatively expressed the hope that Woods might stutter over the weekend "and give the rest of us half an opportunity."
Come the Saturday and there were those, including Montgomerie, who managed to make something of what was indeed "half an opportunity." While Woods had a 71 in which a couple of his tee shots landed in gorse, Montgomerie had a 70 to be three shots behind the player rather than four.
Meanwhile, Olazabal had a 66 to seize the second slot on the leaderboard.
Goosen, after a 66, was on the same 9-under-par mark as Montgomerie.
At 9 o'clock that Saturday night, Woods was on the practice range, sharpening his game for the final round. Some 200 fans had a never-to-be forgotten experience as they stayed back to watch. At the end, Woods rewarded them by signing every hat and shirt in the place.
Even if the Sunday did not provide the kind of thrilling finish that so many, other than Woods, might have wanted, it was one to send out the signal that all was well in the golfing world.
Though there was something in what the critics were saying about too many of the par 4s being drivable, the Old Course had done what she was meant to do in identifying the best player of them all.
When Woods said he would be banking his prize money, someone asked, lightly, what he was saving for.
"A rainy day," came his deliciously ridiculous response.