‘You knew he was better than you’: What’s it like to face off against Tiger Woods? This pro knows

Billy Ray Brown lost to Tiger Woods at the 1999 Buick Invitational.

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When you win as often as Tiger Woods has, that means you have a ton of people who have finished second behind you, too.

At the 1999 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, Billy Ray Brown fired weekend rounds of 68 and 66 to finish the tournament at 20 under.

Woods shot 62 on Saturday and followed with a 65 on Sunday playing in the final pairing with Brown to clip him by two.

“It’s one of those things, you know, he knew he was better than you and you knew he was better than you,” Brown told GOLF’s Subpar co-hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stolz. “That’s the way it was going to be.”

The difference came with Woods eagling the par-5 finisher at the South Course.

“It was actually really fun for me because we kind of separate ourselves from the rest of the field,” Brown said. “I hit first [on 18] and all of a sudden Tiger pulls up. Hits a shot that I hadn’t heard all day long. Heard! You know what I’m talking about. This thing— he had out hit me by 70 yards on 18.

“I’m sitting there with a 3-iron left in my hand to have that front left pin. And he’s got a 7-iron.”

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That was Woods’ first win at Torrey Pines and he collected seven more trophies at the San Diego-area course, including the 2008 U.S. Open.

And while power and intimidation were two of Woods’ biggest assets in the early part of his career, Brown noticed how well he thought his way around a golf course., both at Torrey Pines and from meeting him in Houston when Woods was teenager taking lessons from Butch Harmon.

“Damn, he was smart,” Brown said. “He understood how to play… He was OK with not being perfect. I wish I had played like that.

“We see so many young players, in my opinion, that are incredible from tee-to-green and they understand the nuances of playing the game itself, and he was above everybody that I’ve seen, the way he plays. How he set up angles. How he could form a trajectory. How he took off shots. How he moved it in the other direction.

“I was simply amazed by that guy.”

You can hear more from Brown, including the embarrassing shot he hit in front of Woods and the time he was denied to chance to play an exclusive course with the defending Masters Champ, in the full interview below.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.