Tiger surprisingly didn’t win any of the other majors in 2001 after winning the Masters. At the end of the year, he still finished with the maximum wins on the PGA Tour (5) and was named the PGA Player of the Year and the PGA Tour Player of the Year, which was becoming a norm now. Unsurprisingly he again topped the money list.
2002 started on a credible but low-key note, Tiger only won 1 out of the 7 pre-Masters tournaments he competed in, the Bay Hill Invitational. Such was the level of dominance that Tiger had set in 1999 and 2000 that a record which would be considered envious for most on the circuit was considered par for the World Number 1.
Tiger entered Masters aiming to become only the third man in history after Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo to defend the Masters. Day 1 saw 11 golfers tied for 7th position with 2 under par, and Tiger was one of them! Tiger shot one better on day 2 enabling him to be part of a 5 man group tied for 3rd place.
On Day 3 he was 2 strokes better than anyone on the course as a 66 meant he was tied at top of the leaderboard with South African Retief Goosen with a total of 205, 11 under par. Rain meant that Tiger had to play 26 rounds of Day 3 to complete the 54 which made his 3rd round score even more incredible.
On Day 4 the weather made it difficult to score as well as the previous three days and Tiger could hit only a 71, but Goosen fell away and could only manage 74 meaning that Tiger had become the first man in over a decade and only the third in history to successfully complete a Masters defense.
Tiger was not at his best over the 4 days, not by any stretch of the imagination. There were bogeys spread over the 4 days. But his errors were at a minimum and crucially never at the wrong time. If his first Masters, title in 1997, had the exuberance of being his first Majors then the second one last year had the emotional aspect of completing the Tiger Slam. This was, however, a perfect example of ruthless efficiency.
Tiger’s father Earl always had over the top statements to celebrate his son’s Masters wins, after the first he compared him to a Messiah, after the second he said Tiger would change the World, this time around the statement was a lot more subtle that his son had something special which no other player in the world could seem to find. And it was perfectly apt too, the special Tiger had romped to his third Masters despite not being at his best.