THE PLAYERS 2001: Tiger Woods

Years from now, if there is a curiosity offered from an interested party about just how special was Tiger Woods, just dust off tape of THE PLAYERS Championship 2001.

He was at his best — and on the grandest stage against the toughest field.

Arguably at his zenith, Woods that season would win the third of five straight Player of the Year titles and a third consecutive money title. Yet some said that he couldn’t master THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, having failed to win in his first four tries with just one sub-70 round.

Third-round leader Jerry Kelly even opined that Woods “was just another player” as he got nine in front of the world No. 1 through 36.

Motivated, Woods stormed back with a third-round 66 punctuated by a 60-foot birdie putt at the island-green 17th that rode two tiers and broke three times before falling. “Better than most,” was the iconic call by NBC’s Gary Koch, and indeed it might have been as good as anything fans had ever seen.

Two behind Kelly to start a rain-plagued final round, Woods birdied the first and pitched in from 100 feet to eagle the second. Deficit, be gone, and when he birdied the par-5 ninth before play was halted, Woods led.

For a second straight year, a Monday finish at THE PLAYERS featured Woods. This time, he prevailed, a 14-under 274 one clear of Vijay Singh, whose pulled his tee ball into the water at the 14th.

“A dumb mistake,” Singh said.

Not as dumb as those suggestions that Woods couldn’t win at the Stadium Course. A 69-66-67 performance over his final 54 holes showed otherwise.

“Better than most.” - Gary Koch