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Sportsman of the Year

For all the greatest athletes, for all their triumphs, only a
few fashion a year so magical that it exceeds our comprehension
of physical (and metaphysical) superiority. Rarer still is the
champion who so overwhelms his sport that he rearranges it.
Tiger Woods was already on his way to that achievement before
the turn of the millennium, but his extraordinary
accomplishments of this past year--10 victories, including three
majors, and the career Grand Slam--changed golf. Because of him
the game is more luminous in the galaxy of sport, a star of a
different shape and magnitude.

He even disturbs the path of our own winking moon.
In 46 previous years of presenting Sportsman of the Year to
heroes in 14 sports, 38 times we presented it to an individual,
five times to a pair of them, twice to a team and once to a group
of athletes. Never, till now, has anyone been so decorated more
than once. Yet why should we be affected any less than the rest
of sport? Of course Tiger Woods is our Sportsman of the Year. (He
was previously named Sportsman in 1996.) With athletic majesty
and utter excellence--and with a certain youthful panache--Woods
not only is the consummate champion of this time but also is a
popular sovereign who rules over a giddy and grateful links
dominion (excepting perhaps Ernie Els et al.).

But do not listen only to us and to what superlatives we can
ladle. In the pages that follow, give ear to various and sundry
enlightened beholders of the man extant and the myth aborning.
We have deposed a number of able eyewitnesses to the golfing
history of the year 2000 (including one from each of his 10
victories and, beginning on page 90, a few of a more supernal
variety), and they speak to those recent marvels that previously
seemed to happen only in legendary days long ago when giants
might have walked the earth but only human beings played golf.

--Frank Deford

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY GERARD RANCINAN COVER sportsman of the year tiger woods one cool cat