With the return of Tiger Woods upon us, we wanted to take a look at some of his most memorable and memorizing shots to remind us of what he used to be and how he got us hooked every Sunday. A lot of tour pros hit phenomenal shots but he seemed to do it on the biggest stages, at the biggest tournaments, when it mattered most. This list has two qualifications: The shot had to be nearly impossible for the average golfer (or tour pro) and it had to lead to a high tournament finish, if not a win.
Watching golf without him involved is kind of like losing your girlfriend to a long business trip/South American kidnapping and having to resort to copious amounts of porn. This is hard core golf porn at its finest, sans ransom. Enjoy:
No 9: “Hello world”*
Scenario: 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, Final round
As his professional debut was coming to a close, and with no chance of winning, he decided to give the fans a little taste of what was to follow for the next 17 years. At the 14th hole he holed a 6-iron from just over 200 yards for his first PGA hole-in-one and celebrated by giving the crowd his first (of many) fist-pumps. He finished 60th with a check for $2554 and to this day hasn’t flown coach again.
*This was the only shot on this list which didn’t result in a close finish. We only included it because it was an “amuse bouche” for the greatest career in golf history and it put the rest of the Tour on notice that there was a new sheriff in town and, like Bart in Blazing Saddles, he was black.
No 8: “It’s just not a fair fight”
Scenario: 2000 US Open @ Pebble Beach, 2nd round
With an errant tee shot Tiger found himself in the deep, 4-inch thick right rough on the 6th hole. A mere mortal (and most pros) would have chosen to pitch out towards the fairway, but instead he elected to muster a 7-iron up a 40 foot hill from 202 yards out and put it within 15 feet for eagle. If you factor in the horrendous lie and the extreme uphill climb, that shot is roughly 230 yards. I repeat: he hit a 7-iron. For some perspective, from a flat fairway most pros hit theirs 175-190 yards. That shot led to birdie and propelled him to a 15-shot win at the Open and his finest major victory. He was the only guy under par at the end of the week (-12). The next closest competitor was +3.
No 7: “Fuck me”
Scenario: 2000 WGC @ Firestone, 3rd round
We can’t tell this story better than the greatest golf story teller of all time other than to say we simply don’t know how he physically pulled this off (paging Tony Bosch*). 190-yard wedge from the rough. You do the math. *Legal exclaimer*
No 5: “Better than most…”
Scenario: 2001 Players Championship, 3rd round
For those who don’t follow golf on a weekly basis, the 17th green at TPC Sawgrass is the most notorious green on tour. While it’s a short 137-yard par 3, there are several factors which make it incredibly daunting. First, it’s tiny and completely surrounded by water. Second, the stadium gallery watching is roughly 15,000 deep (and shitfaced). It’s estimated that more than 100K golf balls are retrieved from the surrounding water each year. Tiger managed to reach the green but was left with a downhill 60-footer that broke four different ways but somehow managed to drain in. Johnny Miller, who is not easily impressed with any golf shot, described it as “one of the best long putts I’ve ever seen”. That’s a huge understatement. Tiger would go on to win by a stroke the next day.
No 4: “The most flush golf shot I’ve ever hit”
Scenario: 2002 PGA Championship @ Hazeltine, 3rd round
What else can I say that Eldrick can’t? The only tidbit I’ll add is this: your humble author is a 3 handicap and I could literally drop 1,000 balls from that spot and not come CLOSE to putting it on the green, much less within 15 feet at a Major.
No 3: “I like that play…”
Scenario: 2000 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Final Round
Heading into the back nine and trailing by seven strokes to rookie Matt Gogel, most pros would just go through the motions and make it to the clubhouse and onto the next event. Not Eldrick Woods. After going -1 through 14, he arrives to the 15th trailing by 4 shots and hits a knock-down wedge from 97 yards out and holes it for an eagle 2 to cut the lead in half. He went on to nearly card another fairway eagle on the next hole and by the time he was rolling in his birdie putt on 18 to shoot 64, Gogel had choked down the stretch and the comeback was complete. Tiger shot 31 on the back to the rookie’s 40 and turned a seemingly innocuous Pro-Am into must-see TV.
No 3: “What a great line this is…”
Scenario: 2006 Open Championship @ Royal Liverpool Golf Club, 2nd round
During day two of the Open Championship in Hoylake, Tiger holed out from 209 yards with a towering 4-iron, en route to a 65 to put himself in the driver’s seat for the weekend. He would go on to win his 3rd Open across the pond but this one was extra special for him. This was Tiger’s first win since (his father) Earl’s death. After sinking the winning putt Sunday the world got a rare glimpse into the human side of a man who we deemed to be robotic, as he fell into Stevie Williams’ arms sobbing.
No 2: “Uh-oh…”
Scenario: 2000 Bell Canadian Open, final round
With a one-stroke lead on 18 and his nearest competitor safely on the green in regulation Tiger decides to end all the suspense and hit one of the ballsiest shots of all-time. Here’s the skinny of it; it’s raining, hard. The prudent play was to aim 40 yards left of the target, but he instead chose to carry 205 yards of water to a back right pin in the pouring rain with a 6-iron. Not only does he pull off this Evel-Knievel stunt but he sticks it to 14 feet and sinks the birdie putt to win by 2 strokes. Before an early spring afternoon on Sunday in 2005 this would have been the hands-down most memorable shot of his career, but there was one more to follow.
No 1: “Swoosh”
Scenario: 2005 Masters, Final round
The 16th hole at Augusta National is named “Red Bud”. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate name considering the shirt color of choice for Tiger on Sundays, and on this majestic piece of manicured grass he would stake claim to the greatest shot ever played in Masters history. Paired with Chris DiMarco, who was coming off of 2 straight birdies to cut Tiger’s lead to 1 on the 16th tee, he played a glorious pitch 20 feet left of the hole and hoped for gravity to take over. It did. And the result was the best advertisement Nike could have ever scripted (better, actually). Turns out he needed that birdie because he would follow with 2 bogies to let DiMarco sneak into a playoff. After the first extra hole, though, Tiger would once again cover his Sunday red in green.
Side note: I’ve been diligently watching this game for the better part of 20 years and this shot is the only one when I can tell you exactly where I was when it happened. My parents had the JFK assassination; I have Eldrick at Red Bud on Sunday.