Steve Stricker doesn’t mind being lost in the shadows, the low-key Wisconsinite never one to seek the limelight or the spotlight.
But this is ridiculous.
Twenty-five years ago, he made his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour, a 6-iron from 170 yards on the usually rowdy 16th hole in Sunday’s final round of the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. He even won a car with his stroke of perfection, an off-white Oldsmobile Aurora with a 1997 sticker price of $35,000.
Unfortunately, it was one of those “Bueller, Bueller” moments. Hardly anybody saw it, hardly anybody outside of Stricker’s family remembers it. Even a hunt through Google or any other search engine comes up blank.
All because of Tiger Woods.
The exploding superstar, who was just 21 but had already won three of his record-tying 82 PGA Tour victories heading into the 1997 Phoenix Open, made one of the most famous holes-in-one in game’s history the day before.
On the same hole.
In front of about 15,000 people – or about 14,980 more than saw Stricker’s ace.
The 15,000 was a large collection of the estimated 120,000 fans that attended the Greatest Show on Turf that Saturday, the wildest day of the wildest week in golf.
The numero uno – a soft 9-iron from 162 yards that bounced into the hole – was captured live on ESPN and has been replayed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube and other social media outlets. And numerous stories featuring words of the shot and scene do come up on search engines.
“Well, that shows you who moves the needle,” Stricker said. “That’s Tiger for you. He raised the roof, but I won the car.”
It was Woods’ second ace as a professional – he made his first in his debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. But you’d be hard pressed to find a hole-in-one that produced as loud an aftermath as Woods’ ace. Or as insane a reaction from the fans, who began to make it rain with empty and full beer cups.
“It was loud,” is all that the reserved Mike “Fluff” Cowen said this year on the silver anniversary of his former boss’ ace.
Loud? The sustained detonation reverberated across the golf course and rattled the windows in the clubhouse – more than 500 yards away.
Paired for the first time with Woods was Omar Uresti, who had the honor when the two arrived at the 16th tee. Today’s three-story coliseum enclosing the hole had yet to be built but a massive wall of people was waiting on the hill to the right of the hole that extended to the green and another mass of people were behind the hole.
A large beer tent was at the top of the hill.
Uresti then hit an 8-iron to less than three feet and the gallery exploded.
After the crowd fell silent, and with the McDowell Mountains standing tall as a stunning backdrop, Woods swung away. The ball soared truly toward the flagstick, landed softly, took two bounces and disappeared.
“I think I broke Fluff’s hand,” Woods said years later about his high-five to his caddie. “I missed Omar or was it Rusty? Omar? I missed his. And then old school, back in the day, raised the roof, you know, that was the thing in the day.
“Then on top of that, just smelling and hearing the beer hit behind me on the tee box. To turn around and see all this beer flying was crazy.”
Another crazy thing happened shortly thereafter.
“The more eerie part was when we were playing 17 and 18, everybody didn’t really care,” Woods said. “They were walking in, because they had seen what they wanted to see and 16 was empty.”
Read original article on Golf Week.