Woods led the tournament by three strokes at that point. In the entire tournament, during which he had rounds of 67, 66, 67 and 69, he didn't make a single eagle. Besides driving distance, he led the tournament in only one other statistical category: low score.
David Toms played with Woods for the first time on Saturday and was struck dumb by "his focus." It nearly rhymed with psychosis. "I have never seen so many people on a golf course," said Toms, who finished 10th on the PGA Tour money list last year yet is largely anonymous in this unlucky generation of professionals. "A lot of those people are screaming at him, sometimes when he's standing over a shot. It is awesome to watch."
It's not that Woods can't hear the gallery, with its Caesar-entering-Rome salutations, from the center of his roped corridors. To the contrary, he hears everything. In the dead silence of the 6th fairway on Saturday, Woods backed off his ball and glared at the crowd for reasons—a moth fluttered its wings in Madagascar? a dolphin squeaked beneath a distant sea?—known only to him. He's most assuredly not saying. Woods gives away nothing in post-match interviews. No emotions, no personal details whatsoever. He treats every press tent as a sensory-deprivation chamber.
Woods's gallery was managed last week by an elite commando unit of golf marshals, the same men who have worked his rounds at the Open since Troon three years ago. They went about their grave business—containing the streakers, sportswriters and other degenerates who pursue Woods in a massive conga line inside the ropes—with paramilitary zeal, all but singing boot-camp-style as they marched up the fairways. I wanna be a golf-course ranger!/I wanna live a life of danger!
Such vigilance is now necessary on golf courses, thanks largely to Woods. A tournament-record throng of 230,000 attended this year's Open, and it finally overwhelmed Her Majesty's Marshals on Sunday evening, breaching the security cordon on the 18th fairway and pouring forth behind Woods like water through a burst dam, threatening to carry him to the green. Security guards who had evidently cut their teeth on soccer hooligans pitched at least two spectators into the Swilken Burn, the creek that runs across the 1st and 18th fairways. The man working the massive scoreboard behind the green, understandably addled, mistakenly posted Woods's score not as -19 but as -29, giving him an 18-stroke lead, preposterous even by his present standards.
When Woods finally reached his tee shot on 18, a comprehensively tanned woman, wearing but a tattoo, gamboled from the gallery to the green, where she grabbed the flag and danced around it as if it were a maypole. Just like that, half of Scotland looked like Tiger—wearing scarlet on Sunday. Inside the 146-year-old Royal & Ancient clubhouse, monocles fell into soup tureens. When a policeman finally bundled the streaker from sight, Woods chipped on and two-putted. His world domination was complete. Thus was ushered in the Leaden Age of Sportswriting.
For what will be left to say of Woods's golf game five years, five months, five weeks from now? "He has to have challengers for the whole thing to be right," Nicklaus told a tentful of scribes last week. "It's a bad story if there aren't any challengers. You guys won't have anything to write about."
Indeed, last weekend saw the final pages flipped on some cosmic Chinese golf calendar—from the Age of the Bear to the Age of the Tiger. When Nicklaus putted out on 18 on Friday, ending what is presumed to have been his final round ever at the British, Woods happened to be 50 yards away, near the 1st tee, practicing his putting in advance of his own round. He didn't applaud Nicklaus, and scarcely even looked at him. There is a joylessness to Woods's appointed rounds. Not so with Nicklaus, who, having missed the cut at the Old Course, immediately scheduled a leisure round for Sunday, his 40th wedding anniversary. "I played golf the day I got married," he reasoned. "Barbara didn't mind it then; she certainly won't mind it now."
Woods may have learned too well from Nicklaus, whose records were taped to the headboard of Tiger's bed even at age 10. Of his list of achievements, Woods actually said on Sunday night, "I thought I'd be at this point faster than it took," which is to say sooner. With such ambitions, victory results not in joy but relief. Woods's smile, while famous, is far too infrequent. More often he wears the game face: It could serve as a gargoyle on the gray granite buildings of St. Andrews. He doesn't save his game face strictly for the golf course, either. Woods and Mark O'Meara spent the week before the British Open playing golf and fly-fishing in Ireland. O'Meara caught a six-pound Atlantic salmon one morning after Woods had slipped off to eat breakfast. When Tiger returned to see the fish, his face betrayed something other than delight. "I could tell," says O'Meara, "he wished it had been him who caught it."
So it is with majors. Woods wants all the fish worth catching, and he intends to take his limit Things could be worse for his colleagues: Colin Montgomerie has become wealthy winning 24 nonmajors, nine of them named for car manufacturers. "I'll go on doing what I do, winning the Volvo PGAs," he said last week, staring into a bland, if lavishly automotive, future. Likewise Ernie Els. Or rather, Ernie Ls: He has finished second to Woods four times—this year. "Everybody," says Nicklaus, "has thrown up the white flag and surrendered." Then again, says Calcavecchia, "If Jack was in his prime today, I don't think he could keep up with Tiger."