Jimmy Fallon once crushed Tiger Woods in a golf match in Times Square
Welcome back to the Tiger Woods YouTube Project! With all the, y’know, real golf happening in recent weeks, these episodes have been coming at a less furious pace, but trust me when I say we’re excited to be back in action. In short, we’re taking a YouTube video from each year of Tiger Woods’ life and seeing what insight we can glean in the process. Today’s stop: Times Square, June 2009.
Tiger Woods YouTube Project, Chapter 26: Down goes Tiger!
You’ll recall that 2009 was a bit of a complex year for Tiger Woods. After he’d finished 2008 with a preposterous stat line — five wins in seven tournaments — Woods got knee surgery and disappeared from the public eye for months. When he returned to the course in early 2009, he was still far and away the best golfer on the planet. He won at Bay Hill (Arnie’s event) Memorial (Jack’s event) and AT&T National (his event, at the time). The GOAT trifecta. He won at the event of a former sponsor (the Buick Open) and a future sponsor (the Bridgestone Invitational). In all, he won seven times, six on the PGA Tour.
But 2009 was also the year Woods lost his armor. On the golf course, he lost a measure of invincibility during his PGA Championship showdown with Y.E. Yang, which ensured a major-free year for the world No. 1. Off the course, you know plenty well about the events of his Thanksgiving, which led to a different type of lengthy break from the game and an entirely new chapter of his life.
In the midst of all that was some nonsense with Jimmy Fallon, which is exactly the sort of thing we at the Tiger Woods YouTube Project specialize in. As the cover star was out promoting Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010, he and Fallon did battle via Wii on a stage in Times Square, and Scott van Pelt and Kelly Tilghman called the action. First, check it out. Then we’ll break it down.
Okay, time for some notes on the blurry broadcast.
1. Tiger hated it.
Tiger Woods is and always will be comfortable with these sorts of exhibitions as long as he’s winning. His entire public persona is built on the fact that he is a cold-stone killer in competition. That’s a lot of pressure, even when it’s just what seems like a dumb Wii match in Times Square. For someone like Woods who doesn’t love the off-course spotlight, playing a game is a good way to do an interview — until you start losing. Then you’re in a tough spot.
Woods put on a good face, but you don’t have to be a body language expert to see that he’d rather the shoe have been on the other foot. He looked delighted to concede the match early.
2. Jimmy loved it.
This one’s obvious, but I mean, he really loved it. If Woods’ public persona involves being a winner, Fallon’s involved over-exuberance and an ability to celebrate the most trivial moments like they’re U.S. Open-winning putts. As a result, his revelry in beating Woods was something to behold — as were his celebratory plans, which he related to the New York Post.
“I’m gonna go get a beer, one of my favorite bars. I gotta.”
3. It was a different type of gallery.
In the pre-Covid-19 world, Times Square was a madhouse all the time. Screaming billboards. Massive TV screens. Double-decker tour buses zipping through. Grown adults dressed like superheroes. Lots of them. Everywhere. You can only imagine making your way through that day to see a real-life superhero, Tiger Woods, facing off against Fallon. The fascination of the passersby is hilarious, especially considering they certainly had no idea what was going on. Fallon is funny, too, particularly once he starts screaming at the buses.
“This is distracting, I didn’t know there was going to be a tour bus — this is bullcrap! Get out of here, will ya?! I’m trying to golf!”
4. We got an all-time first for Tiger.
Has anybody ever fist-pumped directly in Tiger Woods’ face while playing a golf match? Fallon’s made 83-foot putt and subsequent stage-jumping two-armed fist pump was some pretty special celebratory magic. That’s the sort of confidence no Tour players have ever possessed.
Years later, Fallon was still holding onto the moment. “At least I wasn’t a sore winner,” he said before rolling this clip:
5. What are those shoes?
Another reminder that this was 2009 is the fact that Woods’ Nike pants are so baggy they obstruct our view of his shoes, but how ’bout those shoes! Woods has never been known as particularly avant garde when it comes to footwear (even though his Nike golf shoes have looked particularly cool in recent years) so I don’t ever remember seeing him go red-and-white like this. Are those Jordans? Air Maxes? I wish that I was cool enough to know, but here’s a picture for any smarter sleuths out there.
6. Scott van Pelt is the best.
The world had a reawakening at this past week’s PGA Championship to something we already knew: It’s very fun to have Scott van Pelt involved with golf broadcasts. We just got snippets, but there’s nobody better-suited to keeping it real around Tiger Woods.
“Tiger, you’re in a world of hurt, brother,” he tells Woods mid-match. After the round, he piles on while plugging the game.
“And maybe you can do like Jimmy Fallon and whoop Tiger Woods’ behind,” he says.
7. This is some gaming nostalgia.
No golf video game will ever approach the greatness of mid-2000s Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Even if Woods himself wasn’t much good at it.
June 2009. Simpler times.
For more Tiger Woods YouTube Project:
CHAPTER 15: How Tiger and Michael Jordan became friends
CHAPTER 17: Tiger Woods vs. Bob May
CHAPTER 18: The true meaning of “Better than Most”
CHAPTER 19: 81 at Muirfield
CHAPTER 20: Tiger gave her a Buick
CHAPTER 23: The slow-mo commercial that changed everything
CHAPTER 24: Why Tiger tackled this actor on a Buick shoot
CHAPTER 25: Tiger and Anthony Kim gave a hilarious clinic