Lost amid the clutch birdies and the finger-pointing celebrations on Sunday at the 2000 PGA Championship is a Tiger Woods shot that was almost lost altogether. Holding a one-shot lead on No. 18 — the third hole of a three-hole playoff with Bob May — Woods yanked his tee shot left. What happened next was, well, interesting.
Woods watched anxiously as his golf ball headed towards trees, high rough and out-of-bounds, and seemed to disappear (“That is miles left!” said on-course reporter David Feherty) momentarily before reappearing and bounding down a cart path and onto some hardpan. Woods wasn’t in a good spot, but he had a shot and he wound up parring the hole to secure his third straight major championship on his way to the Tiger Slam.
But was there some foul play with his ball? Nothing has ever been confirmed, but some people — most notably CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Ken Venturi — were left scratching their heads as they watched the action unfold. Here’s the footage from that day:
And here’s the transcript of what was said on the telecast starting at the :37 mark:
__ Venturi:__ “What happened with that ball?”
__ Nantz:__ “Do you think someone either kicked it or threw it back in that direction?”
__ Venturi:__ “I don’t know. It, it didn’t. . .”
__ Nantz:__ “It didn’t react naturally, did it?”
__ Venturi:__ “No, it didn’t at all.”
__ Nantz:__ “I sure hope someone didn’t slap it back.”
__ Venturi:__ “It could have been someone jumped up and hit it with their hand.”
Upon looking at the replay again a few moments later, Venturi declared, “Oh, that was going into that deep, deep rough and this kid kept it from going in there. That would have been an unplayable lie, maybe.”
Golfweek’s Jeff Rude recently wrote about the epic duel between Woods and May, mentioning Woods’ tee shot on 18 that “somehow stayed in play.”
“The better you are, the luckier you are,” Bob May’s father, Jerry, told Rude. “Tiger was really blessed on a couple shots. But it was one of the best matches ever, win or lose.”
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And a winning golfer usually gets a break or two along the way, so that’s probably all this was. In Alan Shipnuck’s game story for Sports Illustrated that week, he doesn’t even mention the drive, simply saying, “At 18, Woods got up-and-down from the front bunker to seal the win.”
So there you have it. Maybe it was just a ho-hum par. Sorry, conspiracy theorists, nothing to see here.
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