On this day 20 years ago, Tiger Woods won the first of his eight titles at Bay Hill, beating Davis Love III by four shots at the 2000 Bay Hill Invitational.
For Woods, the victory marked his 11th win in his past 18 starts. It also was his third title of the year in just six starts. Woods ended 2000 with 10 victories, including three majors.
Love, however, once again came up short at Bay Hill, finishing second for a third time.
Here is a look back on some highlights from Woods’ first Bay Hill triumph:
Woods, 24, began the week at Arnie’s Place by being recognized for winning the 2009 McCormack Award, given to the player who finished the year at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“This year he has such a large lead in the rankings at the end of the first quarter now that it’s highly unlikely that he will not be here winning the award again next year,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said during the award presentation. “But I want to point out that while Tiger coincidentally is in the 100th week that he has been in the No. 1 position this week, it still is far short of Greg Norman’s record of 331 weeks. And the reason I point that out is I’m always looking for ways to encourage Tiger to think about playing more golf for more years.”
Woods, who has now spent 683 weeks at No. 1, added: “Obviously, this is a pretty nice award. God, it looks pretty. Pretty heavy, too. But last year was a great year, one of those years where a lot of wonderful things happened, not only to win some tournaments, but I won a major championship, as well. And a lot of good things go my way in order for the rankings to turn out the way they did.”
Woods was asked five questions in his pre-tournament press conference, two of which were about a 19-year-old pro named Aaron Baddeley, whom Woods played a practice round with that day. (Sergio Garcia was also part of that group.)
“There’s no way I ever hit it that good at 19,” Woods said of Baddeley, who turned 20 two days later.
Woods also talked about what it would mean to win Palmer’s tournament after already capturing the Nelson and Memorial tournaments.
“I think it would be even more special to win Arnold’s tournament, just because of the fact that he is ‘The King,’” Woods said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win the Byron Nelson, as well as Memorial, which is Byron Nelson and Jack’s, respectively. And it would be nice to be a part of Arnold’s tournament as well; get that sword.”
After a first-round, 3-under 69 in which he birdied No. 15-17 in blustery and soft conditions, Woods was asked his thoughts on the NCAA Tournament, which began earlier that day.
“I think it’s going to be the [Stanford] Cardinal and Michigan State in the finals,” Woods said. “That’s what I’d like to see.” (Stanford lost in the second round to North Carolina while Michigan State went on to beat Florida in the final.)
Woods grabbed the 36-hole lead at 11 under, one shot clear of Mike Weir, with a second-round 64. He eagled two par-5s, Nos. 4 and 12, hitting driver-fairway wood to about 20 feet on both holes. He capped his round by hitting 9-iron to 12 feet at the last and sinking the putt.
At the end of his media scrum, Woods talked about some advice he had given Baddeley two days earlier about signing autographs and watching out for collectors trying to make money.
“If you watch me sign, as I’m walking in the practice round, I’ll ask, ‘What’s your name?’ And I’ll sign it and usually if they say, ‘Just sign it a few times,’ then I’ll write something that you’re probably not supposed to write,” Woods said.
Love made a Moving Day charge, firing a tournament-record, 9-under 63 to earn a spot in the final pairing with Woods, who shot 67.
Love’s record round included two chip-ins, one for eagle at the par-5 12th and the other for birdie at the par-4 15th.
“Instead of thinking, Can I get these balls up-and-down? I was thinking about chipping them in,” Love said. “I was just in a good frame of mind today. I came out feeling good and, in fact, told my caddie, John Burke, I said, ‘I hope my back feel this is good tomorrow because this is the best I’ve felt in a couple weeks.’”
After Woods birdied the par-4 11th, his fourth of the day, to get to 14 under, Love eagled the par-5 16th ahead of him to tie the lead. But Love missed a birdie putt at the last and Woods added birdies at Nos. 12 and 16 to finish at 16 under, two ahead of Love.
“Under these conditions, I thought it was difficult to shoot a low round, but Davis proved otherwise,” Woods said.
Following his round, Love was asked about a potential motorcycle purchase, which he was hesitant to elaborate on.
“Well, I’ve been looking at a new motorcycle this week, a new Harley,” Love said. “But don’t write that down because my wife’s going to get mad at me. If I keep playing like this, she will probably let me have it.”
Preparing for a final-round bout with Woods, Love provided some good insight into what was going through his head.
“There’s no getting around that and it’s hard to beat him,” Love said of Woods.
He continued: “I don’t think if you talk to the Atlanta Hawks they are going to tell you that they are better than the Lakers. The Lakers are good and they are going to be tough to beat. But that doesn’t mean the Hawks or the Pacers or anybody are going to give up and just mail it in. If they get them in the first round, they are going to try to beat them.”
And more: “I would say he’s doing everything a little bit better than everybody else, yeah, right across the list I just gave you: Putting, driving distance, control, mental game. Everything is just a little bit sharper than everybody else. Plus, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? The confidence, when it comes, you don’t know how it came or where it came from, but when you get it, it’s a great thing and he’s just building on it more and more.”
And one final thought: “I would say if you had to say, all right, where do you want to play? I’d rather play a couple groups back, yeah, given that you are close to the same score as him. You wouldn’t want to be two or three back … but, you know, you definitely can get away from a little bit of the intimidation. Whereas, playing with Greg Norman or whoever was another guy that was, you know, an intimidating player, Jack, yeah, you were probably better off if you weren’t with him than having to watch all the putts go in, because when it starts rolling, no matter who it is – Billy Mayfair. Playing with Billy Mayfair and everybody putt starts going in. Ben Crenshaw. Every putt was just right in the middle of the hole; how am I going to beat this guy? He can’t miss. So, sometimes it is better off to be not right there with him. But on the other hand, you get on a roll, you’d rather be there for him to see it; that you’re in control.”
Woods was confident carrying his two-shot cushion into Sunday, saying the evening before: “I’ve always been a big believer in the fact that they have got to come get me; and if I go out there and make 18 consecutive pars, then they are going to have to shoot under par to beat me. And that’s the philosophy I’ve always had. The more difficult the golf course, the better that philosophy works.”
Woods nearly did just that, making 16 pars, two birdies and firing a closing 70. Love, meanwhile, made too many mistakes. After his approach at the par-4 third rolled up against some rocks in the hazard, Love bogeyed to fall five shots back of Woods. At the turn, he was four back.
After Love drained birdie putts at Nos. 10 and 11, it looked like he may catch Woods, but a 3-foot par putt at the par-3 14th horseshoed out and Love added a bogey at the next to effectively end his chances to win.
Woods avoided potential disaster at the par-5 16th as his second shot ended up against a greenside bunker lip. But without much room behind the ball, Woods managed to get his ball on the green and two-putt to save par.
Love hit the pin with his bunker shot at No. 17 and birdied the finishing hole, but Woods, who finished at 18 under, was the one holding the winner’s sword and posing for photos with Palmer afterward.
“It feels very nice to go out there and get a victory on this golf course, because this golf course is not that easy, and especially under these conditions this week,” Woods said. “The wind has been blowing. It’s been gusty, a little swirly, but to go out there and play a golf course this demanding as solidly as I did, it feels pretty good.”
Woods earned $540,000 for winning his 18th career Tour title.
“I think he’s playing everybody’s A-game every week,” Love said. “You know, Ernie Els could have just as easily shot 18 or 19 under here if he’d have played well. But [Woods] looks like that every week right now, but he’s just much more consistent. … Remember when he used to grade himself? He’s about an A-minus right now every week, and an A-plus some weeks. … Just mentally right now, he’s got the advantage.”