When it comes to golf games, there are two clearly distinct factions. There are those that prefer a whimsical, arcade feel, with simple mechanics and cartoony characters. The other party opts for the simulation style of golf, where such minutiae as club weights and backspin weigh in heavily, and real-life pro golfers play on real-life courses. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 adheres to the conduct code of neither, as it mixes stripped-down golf with golf pros and famous greens. The result isn't an amazing game, but rather one that just barely suffices.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 is, at its core, a facsimile of its PlayStation counterpart. You can play as or against six PGA pros, including Justin Leonard, Brad Faxon, Robert Damron, Stewart Cink, Mark Calcavecchia, and, if you haven't guessed already, Tiger Woods. Your choice of courses is more limited, with Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills, and Pebble Beach being the scope of your golfing options, though the variety found between these three world-famous courses is sufficient. You can play stroke, match, skins, and tournament games on any of these courses, and you can take part in a PGA Tour as well. An interesting new feature is the "play now" mode, which throws you into a random scenario for a quick pickup game of golf. This is a nice addition for those who don't want to invest the time for a full 18 holes, and it adds a pick-up-and-play value previously absent from the series.
The gameplay modes offered are all on par for the series and the genre, but the gameplay itself proves to be slightly off balance. The classic three-click swing mechanic that has been the standard for the genre since the beginning of time is gone. In its stead, PGA Tour 2001 uses the analog control found in the PlayStation version: Pull back on the analog stick and push forward when the power meter has reached its desired peak. While operating very similarly to the vintage digital swing, the analog control may take some time to master, as when executing the swing, slight movements to the left or right can alter the course of your ball drastically. In either an effort to counter this difficulty or to simply make the game more accessible, PGA Tour 2001 includes swing control, known in the PS version as Tiger Control. With swing control, you can adjust the trajectory of the ball while it's in the air to meet your liking. Some may find this helpful, others may find it cheap; for the latter group, this feature can be turned off. In addition, other stress relievers like the mulligan and the two-foot tap-in rule are included. Once you get on the putting green, the game shifts gears and becomes noticeably more difficult, as eyeballing your shots is rarely effective, and the little information about the terrain that's given to you is difficult to apply to the actual sod. Lining up and gauging the power of your shots is made easier with the inclusion of the golfer's view, which comically stretches out the foreground as well as the background. This makes contours in the turf more visible and makes it easier to adjust your putt as necessary. Golfer's view is funny to watch but isn't much more effective than the standard grid found in most every other golf game.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 finds Tiger and company leaping out of the video capture stone age of golf games, with all of the golfers being rendered in full 3D. The golfers look decent, though their animations are jerky and stifled. The courses themselves are usually clean and varied, with small details like autumn leaves falling from the trees and water lapping up on the sand at Pebble Beach, but these details are marred by slowdown, paper cutout shrubbery lining the course, and the occasional texture seaming. Considering EA Sports brought us the visual feast known as Madden 2001 but a few months ago, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 is a disappointment.
The most frustrating aspect of this game is not its general mediocrity, but that it is so close to being a genuinely good golf game. It has all the makings, and with some minor tweaking of the controls and a bit of graphical cleanup, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 could have been an exceptional title. The competition is lean on the PS2, with the only other option being the superior, albeit cartoony, Swing Away Golf, also published by Electronic Arts. But if golf isn't golf for you without those PGA masters and true-to-life courses, then Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001 may meet your needs.