Yet by the time Padraig Harrington lifted the Claret Jug at Birkdale a decade later, there were genuine enquiries made as to whether an asterisk should be put next to the Irishman's name, as Woods, who had been under the knife for knee problems, was absent. In 2008, Harrington's winning score was 3 over par, and only four players stayed within nine strokes of even over the full 72 holes. Now he is a Masters champion who is soaking up a year of celebration.
The first British Open he went to watch was at Royal Birkdale in 1998. He hasn't won a tournament since beating Phil Mickelson in an epic duel at Royal Troon previous year to clinch the Open title, and has missed the cut at both of this season's Majors so far.
His mind is on Royal Birkdale, traditionally one of the toughest links courses in England.
"Angela has been doing a great job of getting everything ready for the wedding". But we have something that we're also extremely excited about this week.
A downbeat Henrik Stenson all-but dismissed his chances of retaining his Open title, despite a closing round of 68 in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
And now it's up for grabs again.
Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Paul Casey will play together and Thursday's first group - out at 1:35 a.m. ET - is Mark O'Meara, the Open champion at Birkdale 19 years ago, Chris Wood and Ryan Moore.
Stenson carded a joint-record eight-under-par 63 in the final round at Royal Troon in 2016 to win The Open by three shots after an enthralling final-day tussle with Phil Mickelson. "Because these good feelings don't come around that often". He dreamed of winning all four majors, and now that he finally has one, he's thinking that way again. - Garcia said both were wonderful. I hit balls for an hour and a half last night, but then felt stiff and said, "That's enough". "But everybody knows how much I love The Open Championship". "I just had to hang in there pretty strong". So definitely, it's something that I would like to achieve.
"We were always going to come and see how it was instead of pulling out early". And much like that week at Augusta National, he has managed to keep his expectations to a minimum knowing how fickle this game can be.
The field for The Open is set at 156 players. He has every reason to believe his game is good while realizing that doesn't mean anything until the Open starts Thursday.
"You can try (sneaking on), I wouldn't recommend it". You can't sneak on the places that we used to sneak on any more.
There are still moments when he's willing to look behind at some painful losses.
"At the end of the day when we get there on Thursday morning on the first tee, the nerves will be there and that's not going to change because that's what drives us". He was runner-up that week for the fourth time. "Maybe we can turn things around a little bit but I need to step it up quite a lot".
The Masters defined his career.
That's not to say we didn't offer Tiger the requisite awe he deserved at the time. And obviously Rafa (Nadal) winning Roland Garros.