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.”
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. 12: Charles Pierce’s GQ Cover Story
No. 16: Hello, World
No. 22: The Apology Press Conference
No. 25: Signs First Deal With Nike
No. 27: Winning Back-to-Back Masters
No. 30: Ugly Breakup With Steve Williams
No. 33: Relationship With Lindsey Vonn
No. 35: A Shot in the Dark at Firestone
No. 36: Television Debut at Age 2