'Hoylake... a fantastic test… it lent itself to just amazing creativity'
Tiger Woods, 2006 Open Champion
By Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail
The bare statistics are impressive enough. Tiger Woods won the Open Championship on its return to Hoylake with a total of 18 under par, missing just one green in regulation in the final round.
But to underline just how impressive, let's go back to the Saturday before the tournament started, at the precise hour of 3pm
Woods emerges from the clubhouse with his caddy Steve Williams, coach Hank Haney and two minders, and spots a familiar face. This one. 'Any idea where the first tee is?' he asks
So Tiger goes to the first tee, immediately plonks a three wood in a fairway bunker, and has to play out sideways. He goes to the second tee, strikes a three wood into a fairway bunker and again, is unable to advance the ball forwards. Welcome to Hoylake, Tiger.
I'm quite sure it was there and then that Woods came up with his unique strategy of how to tackle the course under the parched conditions that existed that week. From the off he had first-hand experience of the hazards you simply had to avoid if you were going to challenge for the claret jug.
It wasn't rocket science to take the bunkers out of play all week by playing short of them off the tee but, funnily enough, no-one else thought of it.
Of course, only a player with supreme faith in his ability, and a rare talent for striking exquisite long iron after long iron, could contemplate it.
It also called for the strongest of minds, for on occasion Woods was playing his approach shots from 80 yards behind his playing partners.
How many pros can keep their ego in check to that extent? When you're capable of outdriving pretty much everyone in the field, how difficult must it be to keep reaching for the long iron to play simply for position?
Such is the greatness of Woods, who executed his strategy so perfectly that when it was over Williams reckoned that there were just three shots played that week that were sub-standard.
Now, if we're being truly picky, we could probably all agree that it would have been nice to have taken one of those heatwave days that prevailed in all four rounds and replaced it with one where there was a brisk breeze.
How nice it would have been if Woods had been forced to use his driver one day, and particularly given that the one time he did use it was one of those three errant blows to which Williams referred.
That said, he would probably have found some way to cope. For evidence, just cast your mind back to those last few holes on a memorable Sunday afternoon.
For a couple of hours in the middle of the round, Woods simply concentrated on eliminating errors rather than trying to make birdies. And then, something happened.
One of his so-called challengers actually started to put him under pressure. Chris DiMarco got his putter to work and, with only a handful of holes to play, it was a competition again with Woods just two shots ahead.
How would he respond to that?
At the 14th Woods took on the pin, struck a mighty blow to 10ft, and rolled in the putt. Then DiMarco made another birdie at the 16th to reduce the deficit again. Woods responded once more in kind with a two at the short 15th.
Of all the qualities Woods possesses, it is surely the way he responds to danger that is the most impressive of all. They have come to be known as Tiger moments, those occasions when he pulls off shots when nothing else will do.
How does he do it? 'I think it comes from the experience of winning,' he said afterwards. 'There is a certain honesty that comes to playing shots, knowing that you have been there before.'
He has certainly been there before. This was his 11th major championship title - there would be a 12th to follow a month later at the USPGA Championship at Medinah - and all of them have been won in the same manner, leading from the front on the final day.
When it was over, there was his memorable reaction on the 18th green, illustrating how much it all meant as he dissolved into tears. He was thinking of his father Earl, who had passed away three months earlier.
How proud Earl would have been of the way his son tackled Hoylake. It was the performance of a man at the very height of his trade.
Eleven majors drew Tiger level with Walter Hagen in second place on the all-time list, chasing Jack Nicklaus's total of 18. When he returns to these parts, he will probably have removed every last question as to who is the greatest player who ever lived.
Relive the 2006 Open at Hoylake
18th Hole, Hoylake, The Open 2006
Tiger Tames Hoylake
Tiger accepts the Claret Jug from Andrew Cross, Captain of Royal Liverpool Golf Club