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Woods, Sorenstam Shatter Records to Highlight the Year in Golf - 2001-12-30

Tiger Woods won his second Masters title and Annika Sorenstam shattered the record books. David Duval, David Toms, and Retief Goosen won their first major tournaments and the Ryder Cup was postponed because of September's terrorist attacks in the United States.

The question early in the season was what has happened to Tiger Woods? The world number one (American) golfer seemed in a funk, not winning a tournament until he edged Phil Mickelson for the title at the Bay Hill Invitational in March.

Having won the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA titles in 2000, Woods went into The Masters in April looking for his fourth title in as many major tournaments. Tiger did not disappoint his fans, finishing at 16-under-par (272) and winning his second Green Jacket. "I don't think I ever dreamt of winning four straight majors," he said. "I dreamt of competing against the best players in the world and winning golf tournaments and winning majors. But I never put four in a row together in my head."

Woods has won six major tournaments in his career, including the Masters twice. He finished 2001 with five tournament wins, nearly five-point-seven million dollars in earnings and the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Woods also had the lowest scoring average. It was 68.87 strokes per four rounds, and he led the tour in average prize money earned per start at more than $300,000.

While Tiger Woods won the Masters, it took five days to determine the U.S. Open champion. South African Retief Goosen and Americans Mark Brooks and Stewart Cink all missed a chance to win on the final regulation hole at the Southern Hills Country Club in Oklahoma. Goosen and Brooks went into an 18-hole playoff the next day, and it was Goosen who easily prevailed by two shots. "It's been a long week, it feels like a year out here," he said. "But I played very solid all week and the putter was warm in places. And I mean what can I say? It's amazing."

The British Open at Royal Lytham and Saint Anne's in England proved to be the site for American David Duval's first major victory. Duval emerged from a three-way tie on the final day of the event to take home the Claret Jug. "Obviously I am excited but you know it is very surreal. I have worked really hard the last couple of years," he said. "I have had some chances here and there. I had to go through a couple of injuries, which were thankfully minor."

The PGA Championship in Atlanta came down to the final hole, and in a battle between two Americans seeking their first major golf title, David Toms prevailed over Phil Mickelson. "It's just like a dream come true," he said. "It's like one of those goals that you set for yourself, but you do not know if you would ever quite get there. I made it."

The Ryder Cup team competition between the United States and Europe was scheduled for late September at the Belfry in England. However, the event was called off after the September 11th terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Ryder Cup matches will instead be played in 2002 with the same teams that were named to the 2001 squads. And from now on, the biennial event will be staged in even numbered years.

The President's Cup between a U.S. team and an international team of golfers outside of Europe, due to be played in 2002, was moved to the odd years and will next be played in 2003.

In women's golf, Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, South Korean Se Ri Pak, and Australian Karrie Webb continued to lead the rankings. Sorenstam had eight victories, including the Nabisco Championship in April where she beat Mi Hyun Kim of South Korea in a playoff. The Swedish golfer also set an LPGA single-round record with a 13-under-par 59 in the second round of the Standard Register Ping tournament in Phoenix (Arizona). Sorenstam was Player of the Year for the fourth time and became the first LPGA player to earn more than eight million dollars in her career.

While Karrie Webb did not win as many tournaments as Sorenstam, she did take two of the major titles, the U.S. Women's Open and the LPGA Championship and completed a career Grand Slam. The Aussie golfer was amazed at her achievement. "I guess this is the dream of all dreams. I do not think you set out ot achieve a career grand slam but one day it will sink in and it will feel really good," she said.

Se Ri Pak of South Korea won the Women's British Open, firing a six under par 66 in the final round to take the third major title of her career.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States also affected the LPGA, with two tournaments (the Safeway Classic and the Nine Bridges Classic) called off because of security concerns.

Almost forgotten in the aftermath of the attacks was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that enabled golfer Casey Martin to use a cart in PGA Tour events. The Court ruled Martin, who has a rare blood disease that makes walking difficult, should be allowed to compete under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Martin played most of 2001 on the secondary circuit. His performance was not good enough to join the PGA Tour in 2002, but he hopes eventually it will be.

Part of VOA's Year End Series for 2001