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Tiger was 'light years better' than everyone else, says Beem

Reflecting on Tiger Woods' period of dominance, 2002 US PGA Championship winner Rich Beem said: "It's mind-blowing in some regards."

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Rich Beem

Rich Beem fended off a surging Tiger Woods to win the 2002 US PGA Championship, but has no doubt that the 14-time major winner is the best player of all time.

Beem's shock triumph at Hazeltine National 15 years ago saw him beat Woods by a stroke, despite the latter finishing with four straight birdies.

At that point in time, Woods was golf's dominant force and appeared highly likely to challenge Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles - a scenario that now appears remote due to the 41-year-old's much-publicised troubles in recent years.

In an exclusive interview with Omnisport, Beem said: "This day and age, I think with the young players talking more and more about winning the majors, that's really what their main focus is. Back when Tiger was dominating, players were talking about winning majors, but they were talking kind of underneath their breath because they had to go through one man and that was Tiger.

"If you didn't take him down, he was more than likely going to win. Now you've got from 15 to 20 different players that have a realistic opportunity to go out and win any major, and that list almost seems to be growing on a daily basis."

While Beem was able to get the better of Woods during the 2002 PGA, he remembered the more common occurrences when Woods was hoisting trophies.

"Without having seen Mr. Nicklaus back when he was at his peak form, without a doubt [Woods was the best of all time]," Beem added.

"Tiger could do things with the golf ball that nobody else could. It was surreal. I remember playing with him on a number of occasions and just watching in awe of exactly what he was able to do with a golf ball and it wasn't just a little bit better, it was light years better.

"To sit there and to kind of soak it in a little bit and to watch him hit these shots and it wasn't one fleeting shot, it was one right after the next, it was very repetitive. And to watch him do it, it's mind-blowing in some regards because you know that you're watching the greatest and barring any injuries and unforeseen personal issues and things like that, I don't know where this guy's limit would have been. Twenty-something [majors] probably would've been a fairly good starting point.

"Unfortunately, this game is pretty fickle at times and he ran into some issues and unfortunately we're probably not going to see it, but I gotta say, I'm glad I was there front and centre for a couple of those moments to watch and see his greatness. It was pretty special."

Beem, now a golf analyst for Sky Sports, clearly admired Woods' dominance and also had words of praise for Phil Mickelson, who will make his 100th major appearance at Quail Hollow this week.

"I was out there watching him [on Monday], and he's out there practicing just as hard as he was when he was 20-something years old," said Beem. "He's just got a passion for the game like no other and it's great to see."

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