What Tiger saw next amazed even him. The ball jumped out of the bunker, smacked the embankment, hopped straight up and then rolled toward the flag. Tap-in par.
Els held on to win that day, but Woods was just warming up. Starting with the next Grand Slam of Golf in 1998, he would win the event five times in a row, including a fourteen-stroke slamming of runners-up Justin Leonard and Davis Love III last year. And while he always plays to win, he would admit that his improvised sand shot, "which ranks as one of the best I've ever played, eased the pain of losing."
8 CHIP-IN AT AMEN CORNER
First round, 1997 Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia
The most famous hole at Augusta's feared and fabled Amen Corner is the 155-yard par-three twelfth, called Golden Bell, where Rae's Creek threatens short tee shots. In 1980, Tom Weiskopf took thirteen strokes to play the hole. In 1997 the twenty-one-year-old Woods, paired with defending Masters champ Nick Faldo, stumbled his way to a first-round forty on the front nine. He birdied the tenth, but then flew the green at twelve. Another miscue might finish his chances. That's when the tide turned: His perfect chip into the bank released across the slippery green and dropped into the cup for a birdie.
"I chipped in with a little bump-and-run nine-iron," he said later. "That one really got me going." As Faldo looked on, Woods fired a six-under-par thirty on the back nine that kept him close to the leaders. He played the 500-yard par-five fifteenth this way: driver, pitching wedge, eagle putt. From there it was all Tiger, all weekend. He shot 66-65 on Friday and Saturday to take command, then finished with a Sunday sixty-nine for a twelve-shot victory, the most lopsided Masters win ever.
Nicklaus, who had won his first Masters at age twenty-three, said, "I don't want to go back and be twenty-one and compete against him."
Woods had captured his first professional major, and it all started with that brilliant bump-and-run on the glassy green at Augusta's twelfth.
9 SIXTY-FOOTER AT THE PLAYERS
Third round, 2001 Players Championship, TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Woods was fighting to stay close to leader Jerry Kelly when he reached the infamous seventeenth, Pete Dye's island-green par three. A day earlier Woods had rinsed one in the pond here and made double bogey. It looked like his third-round tee ball might splash, too, but it stayed on the green's edge, three feet from the water. He faced a sixty-foot putt—the last twenty of it on a slippery downhill slope that Stimped at a dozen or more. From this spot, minutes earlier, Fred Funk had four putted. "I've had that putt before and missed it to the right every time," Woods would say. This time he started it farther left. The ball reached a crest in Dye's green, then began picking up speed as it neared the hole. "If I'd missed, it would have been off the green," Woods said. But it didn't miss. As if pulled by a magnet, his ball dived in for a birdie that probably saved him two or three shots. The next day Woods closed out a one-stroke win for his first Players title.
10 LONG BOMB IN THE AMATEUR
Final round, 1996 U.S. Amateur, Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, North Plains, Oregon
One hole down with nine to play during their thirty-six-hole final, Woods watched Steve Scott hole out a flop wedge from a terrible lie. Now Tiger was two holes down, running out of time. But he was annoyed, too: Scott had celebrated the hole-out a bit too much, jumping around the tenth green at Pumpkin Ridge. At eleven, a 553-yard par five, Tiger hammered a 355-yard drive, then hit the green with a five-iron. His thirty-five-foot putt for eagle—a sweeping left-to-right breaker—found the hole, and Scott was on notice: Here comes Tiger.
"I thought I could build a little momentum," said Scott, "and he just kills it with that eagle."
"Given the circumstances," said Woods two hours later, after claiming his third straight U.S. Amateur title, "this has to be the best I ever played."
Not all of Woods's best shots came during tournaments. In fact, his first nationally televised shot went only a few yards. Here it is, along with other extraordinary exploits.
THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW, 1978
Two-year-old Tiger wowed Douglas and Bob Hope with his precocious swing and putting prowess. A year later he shot forty-eight for nine holes at the Navy Golf Course in Cypress, California.
NIKE'S HACKY-SACK COMMERCIAL, 1999
In a now-legendary ad, Woods bounced a ball off his wedge for thirty seconds, then flipped it up and fungoed it out of sight with a baseball swing. Thousands of viewers thought it was done with camera tricks.
"I was with Tiger that day," ESPN's Stuart Scott told T&L Golf. "He kept missing at the end. So the cameraman asked, 'Aren't you the best golfer in the world?' Tiger says, 'Give me the ball.' Bop bop bop and then WHAM—he hits it on a line 150 yards."
2000 DEUTSCHE BANK-SAP OPEN
Eight star players staged a rooftop stunt for charity, hitting balls across a four-lane street to an artificial green atop a parking garage. Closest to the hole was worth $10,000. Everyone smiled and joked as Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and the rest took their shots at the target 135 yards away. Then Woods stepped up, looking serious. He won by knocking his ball over Hamburg traffic to three feet, three inches from the hole.
2001 BRITISH OPEN: RANGE ROVER
Hitting balls on the driving range after his first round, Woods spotted Nike Golf president Bob Wood standing 100 yards away, just off the range. Using his driver, he chipped a ball that hopped, rolled and finally crawled across the grass until, on its final revolution, it tapped Wood's shoe. Hello. David Duval went on to win the British Open but never hit a shot as miraculous as that one.