Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 9 – Winning 2006 British Open in Memory of Earl

December 22, 2015
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Over 40 days, GOLF.com is rolling out Tiger Woods’ 40 biggest moments. Our ranking started on Nov. 21 and will culminate on Dec. 30, which is Tiger’s 40th birthday. That’s 40 Tiger moments. In 40 days. Ranked. Click here to learn more about our list.

Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 9 – Winning the 2006 British Open in Memory of Earl

A sense of uncertainty hung in the air on the eve of the 2006 Open Championship. There was the venue, England’s Royal Liverpool, a.k.a. “Hoylake,” which had been absent from the Open rota since 1967. There was the defending champion, Tiger Woods. He entered the event having just missed the first major cut in his professional career at the U.S. Open (courtesy of a pair of 76s), and he was still dealing with the loss of his father in early May.

An unusually dry summer had yielded a baked-out course that was playing exceedingly firm and fast. Woods adopted a conservative strategy and stuck to it for 72 holes. He stood one back after the first round, with a five-under 67. It was the only round in which he hit a driver, and he only used it on one hole, missing the fairway at the 16th. He had hit 370-yard drives in practice, but found he couldn’t control the ball, so the driver disappeared. His putter was alive and well, as were his long irons. He hit 2-iron off the tee at the par-5 18th, then a 4-iron onto the green from 236 yards to 20 feet. Boom! Eagle.

In round 2, Woods chose 2-iron off the tee at the brutal par-4 14th, then hit a drawing 4-iron from 212 yards that bounced several times, clanked the metal flagstick and dropped in. Boom! Eagle.

From that point, it was always close, but essentially over. Chris DiMarco clawed to within one on the final nine, but three straight birdies from Woods starting at the 14th sealed the deal. As the fans stood at the last green, Tiger’s caddie, Steve Williams, said to him, “This one’s for dad.” Woods broke down with Williams, and soon after with his wife, Elin. At the trophy ceremony, he told those assembled, “To win my first tournament after my dad passed away, and for it to be a major championship, it makes it that much more special.” In a career filled with special moments for Tiger Woods, this one resonated.

Check back on GOLF.com every day until Tiger’s birthday on Dec. 30 for a new moment in our TIGER@40 countdown.

No. 10: Ace at 1997 Phoenix Open

No. 11: Y.E. Yang Beats Tiger at 2009 PGA

No. 12: Charles Pierce’s GQ Cover Story

No. 13: Battling Sergio at the 1999 PGA Championship

No. 14: Outdueling Sergio, Phil at ’02 Open

No. 15: Seven Straight Tour Wins in ’06-‘07

No. 16: Hello, World

No. 17: ’Better Than Most’ at 2001 Players Championship

No. 18: Winning the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews by 8

No. 19: Winning SI Sportsman of the Year in 1996

No. 20: Return from Scandal at 2010 Masters

No. 21: Winning Third Straight U.S. Amateur Title

No. 22: The Apology Press Conference

No. 23: Shot from Fairway Bunker at 2000 Canadian Open

No. 24: Passes Nicklaus in Career PGA Tour Wins

No. 25: Signs First Deal With Nike

No. 26: Knee Surgery After 2008 U.S. Open

No. 27: Winning Back-to-Back Masters

No. 28: Launching the Tiger Woods Foundation

No. 29: Becoming a Father for the First Time

No. 30: Ugly Breakup With Steve Williams

No. 31: First U.S. Amateur Win at TPC Sawgrass

No. 32: Wire-to-Wire British Open Win at St. Andrews in 2005

No. 33: Relationship With Lindsey Vonn

No. 34: Third Straight U.S. Junior Am Title

No. 35: A Shot in the Dark at Firestone

No. 36: Television Debut at Age 2

No. 37: Breakup with Hank Haney After Six Years

No. 38: Disastrous 2004 Ryder Cup Pairing with Phil Mickelson

No. 39: Beats Stephen Ames 9&8 in 2006 Cadillac Match Play

No. 40: Wins 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational with Dramatic Putt