Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 10 – Ace on 16th Hole at 1997 Phoenix Open

December 21, 2015
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Over 40 days, GOLF.com is rolling out Tiger Woods’ 40 biggest moments. Our ranking started on Nov. 21 and will culminate on Dec. 30, which is Tiger’s 40th birthday. That’s 40 Tiger moments. In 40 days. Ranked. Click here to learn more about our list.

Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 10 – Ace on 16th Hole at 1997 Phoenix Open

It was Saturday at the 1997 Phoenix Open. Tiger Woods stepped onto the tee of golf’s rowdiest hole, the par-3 16th on the Stadium course at TPC Scottsdale. The game’s biggest star was just 21 years old and technically a rookie in his first full year on Tour. Saturday at the 16th — then and now — is the real deal: the biggest crowds at one hole, at one tournament, on any day, in all of golf. The anticipation and the crowd buzz crackled across the grounds. Woods didn’t disappoint.

After consulting with caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan, Woods chose a cut 9-iron on the 162-yard hole, which was playing 10 yards shorter. The high-trajectory shot arced against the McDowell Mountains, landed softly, then took two small bounces and dropped into the cup. Instant bedlam.

Perhaps the loudest roar ever heard in golf reverberated across the course. Fans showered the tee box with beer, and then beer cans. Never had there been a scene like it on the PGA Tour. At his 2015 Phoenix Open press conference, Woods recalled that “I think I broke Fluff’s hand” in their high-five exchange. Woods walked off the tee, raising his arms, palms to the sky in what he called, “an Old School, raise the roof” move.  He remembers “smelling and hearing the beer hit behind me…To turn around and see all the beer flying was crazy.”

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The most unforgettable shot in Phoenix Open history helped cement the status of the 16th hole — and the legend of Tiger Woods. His playing partner that day, Omar Uresti, put it in perspective. He had already planted his tee shot to two and a half feet, and he remembered thinking, “Let’s see you hit it closer than that.” He didn’t watch Woods’ swing, but turned around to see the result. “I took about 10 steps, looked up and I see the ball go bounce, bounce and into the hole,” recalled Uresti. “I looked around, shook my head and thought, ‘Only Tiger.'”

Only Tiger, indeed.

Check back on GOLF.com every day until Tiger’s birthday on Dec. 30 for a new moment in our TIGER@40 countdown.

No. 11: Y.E. Yang Beats Tiger at 2009 PGA

No. 12: Charles Pierce’s GQ Cover Story

No. 13: Battling Sergio at the 1999 PGA Championship

No. 14: Outdueling Sergio, Phil at ’02 Open

No. 15: Seven Straight Tour Wins in ’06-‘07

No. 16: Hello, World

No. 17: ’Better Than Most’ at 2001 Players Championship

No. 18: Winning the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews by 8

No. 19: Winning SI Sportsman of the Year in 1996

No. 20: Return from Scandal at 2010 Masters

No. 21: Winning Third Straight U.S. Amateur Title

No. 22: The Apology Press Conference

No. 23: Shot from Fairway Bunker at 2000 Canadian Open

No. 24: Passes Nicklaus in Career PGA Tour Wins

No. 25: Signs First Deal With Nike

No. 26: Knee Surgery After 2008 U.S. Open

No. 27: Winning Back-to-Back Masters

No. 28: Launching the Tiger Woods Foundation

No. 29: Becoming a Father for the First Time

No. 30: Ugly Breakup With Steve Williams

No. 31: First U.S. Amateur Win at TPC Sawgrass

No. 32: Wire-to-Wire British Open Win at St. Andrews in 2005

No. 33: Relationship With Lindsey Vonn

No. 34: Third Straight U.S. Junior Am Title

No. 35: A Shot in the Dark at Firestone

No. 36: Television Debut at Age 2

No. 37: Breakup with Hank Haney After Six Years

No. 38: Disastrous 2004 Ryder Cup Pairing with Phil Mickelson

No. 39: Beats Stephen Ames 9&8 in 2006 Cadillac Match Play

No. 40: Wins 2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational with Dramatic Putt