They were looking in the wrong direction.
Behind them on the 10th green was Davis Love III, who put together a comeback that was every bit as impressive as what Woods did a year ago.
Seven strokes behind to start the final round, Love wiped out that margin by playing his first seven holes in a staggering 8-under par, then made a bold birdie on the final hole to complete a 63 and win for the first time in 34 months.
"I was reading the paper this morning ... and I looked at the scores and said, 'I'm only seven back.' That's where Tiger was last year," Love said. "It can be done."
Love buried his 0-for-62 drought on the PGA Tour in style. His 9-under 63 was the best closing score by a winner in the 60-year history of the National Pro-Am, topping the 64 by Woods last year.
Love finished at 272 for a one-stroke victory over Vijay Singh, and three shots ahead of Phil Mickelson. Both had a chance to force a playoff until crucial shots went over the cliff and into the Pacific Ocean.
"I've been where Phil and Vijay are a few times in the last two years and it's not fun," said Love, who earned $720,000.
And he now knows how it felt for Woods last year.
Woods made up seven strokes over his final seven holes last year for an amazing victory. He was only a spectator Sunday on another gorgeous day at Pebble Beach, playing in the group behind Love and watching a comeback that must have looked familiar.
The seven-stroke comeback tied the tournament record set by Bob Rosburg in 1961.
"I had a range of emotions today - nowhere near the lead, then in the lead," Love said. "I kept trying to put what had happened early in the round behind me, and play to win the golf tournament."
After going nearly three years without winning on tour, Love had to wait another 45 minutes to see if his lead would hold up.
Singh was one stroke behind when his tee shot on the par-3 17th sailed left of the green and over the cliff. He birdied the 18th for a 69.
Micklson, a co-leader after 54 holes, was one stroke back and in great shape in the 18th fairway when he tried to hit driver off the deck from 257 yards and flared it out to the left, over the sea wall and bounding onto the rocks.
He made double bogey and closed with a 73.
"I always go for that green. I've never hit it in the water," Mickelson said. "When it got up in the wind, it never had a chance."
Olin Browne, the other co-leader, also had a 73 to tie for third.
That left Love a winner for the first time since April 1998, and the author of a comeback that was not quite as thrilling as what Woods did last year, but required a game that was no less impressive.
The signature shot for Woods was a 97-yard wedge he holed for eagle from the 15th fairway. Love had one of those, too, a 104-yard wedge that went in for an eagle on the par-5 second hole that sent him on his way.
"When Tiger came back, he had one of those," Love said. "Sometimes, it takes something like that to get it going."
Get it going, indeed.
Love made no worse than birdie on his first seven holes, went out in 28 and then took the lead with a 3-wood into the famous 18th hole that landed pin high about 35 feet away to set up a two-putt birdie.
The victory was a long time coming for Love, who has 14 career victories but had not won since the 1998 MCI Classic. He had seven runner-up finishes and three thirds during that span, putting pressure on himself to win as each week went by.
"I kept working hard and hanging in there," Love said.
What might have helped was winning Woods' tournament, the unofficial Williams World Challenge, in December. Love came from four strokes behind to beat Woods by two.
Woods was never a factor Sunday.
He made three straight bogeys early, including a 5-iron that sailed into the bleachers on the par-3 fifth hole, and wound up with a 72. He tied for 13th, eight strokes behind.
Love had an ominous start to his day. He found grease on his clubs, which got onto his clothes. By the time he got the mess cleaned up, he had only 15 minutes to warm up.
It didn't take him long to get going.
Love's approach to the first green stopped 35 feet away, but he made the putt to begin his blistering string of birdies. He hooked his drive on the 502-yard second hole and had to lay up short of the mammoth ditch.
"It was a feel wedge," said his caddie, which presumably meant that Love was feeling good about it, especially when it went the hole for eagle.
He birdied No. 3 from 4 feet, rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt up the slope on No. 4, then hit his approach over Stillwater Cove into the 188-yard fifth hole to 3 feet. He got up-and-down from the bunker on the par-5 sixth for another birdie, then hit a sand wedge from 101 yards that spun bacto 2 feet on the par-3 seventh.
Seven holes. Eight under. In the lead.
Neither Mickelson nor Browne made a birdie until the sixth hole, while Craig Barlow started birdie-eagle and tied Love with a birdie on No. 6.
Love's great run ended with a good two-putt par on No. 8, and he was two blades of grass away from a birdie putt at No. 9 that would have tied the PGA Tour record for the lowest nine.
The way the day ended, with Love holding a trophy, he had no complaints.
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