Tiger Woods hit one of the defining shots of his career 17 years ago at the Canadian Open. And it wasn’t so much the otherworldly strike itself, but rather, the underlying mentality it illustrated.
If you don’t remember the shot, let’s start with a recap and then discuss why it was quintessentially TW.
In 2000, Tiger Woods had already won eight times…that year. He arrived at the 72nd hole of the Bell Canadian Open leading unheralded Grant Waite by a shot. Standing on the tee of the par five, Woods knew a birdie would mean Waite needed eagle to even tie him—a remote possibility.
Woods prospects for making said birdie looked dim, however, after his tee shot found a deep fairway bunker. Glen Abbey’s 18th green is effectively an island, so what Woods was facing was the equivalent of a 220-yard shot, out of a fairway bunker, that he needed to hit over trees to a landing area the size of TPC Sawgrass’ famed 17th hole.
Waite found the fairway with his tee shot and landed his second shot on the green. Woods knew Waite could make an eagle putt. If he lay up, he’d need to get up and down with a wedge for birdie. Still, no golfer on the planet would dream of taking the shot on, and certainly with the tournament on the line.
Can you imagine what Tiger Woods was thinking as he stood over his ball? Remember this is 2000, prior to the era of the Pro V1. A 220-yard shot then is the equivalent of 250-plus today. Woods needed to clear the lip of the bunker and elevate the ball quickly. He also needed it to drop feathery soft onto the putting surface. The risk-reward demanded a lay up. Instead, Woods took the nuclear option, hitting this totally insane shot.
Woods made birdie, and beat Grant Waite by a stroke.
“I keep telling everybody I didn’t hit the green I hit it over the green. So it wasn’t really that good,” Woods said about the shot.
If you want a better look at the shot Tiger Woods faced, tour pro Zac Blair posted this picture from the bunker during his practice round.
— Zac Blair (@z_blair) July 25, 2017
An unbelievable shot. One of Woods’ greatest ever, and the perfect illustration of why he was Tiger Woods and everyone else wasn’t.
Interestingly, while Woods downplayed the Glen Abbey wonder-shot, he told reporters earlier this year that he considers this ludicrous effort from a fairway bunker at the 2002 PGA Championship to be the “best feeling” golf shot he ever hit.