‘Higher than most’ putt adopted Fred Funk’s four-putt

(Editor’s be aware: All this week, in honor of the 20-year anniversary of Tiger Woods’ “Higher than Most” putt, we’ll be trying again on the magical second at TPC Sawgrass, maybe the best within the historical past of The Gamers Championship. Coming Tuesday: Tiger Woods does the unthinkable, and Gary Koch’s name completely captures the second.)

Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay likened the second to being within the ocean, seconds from a big wave that may knock you off steadiness.

“ it’s coming and also you type of duck your head,” the veteran PGA Tour caddie mentioned.

Gamers Championship volunteer Mary Sullivan remembers the sounds: utter silence, a buzz of uncertainty, even perhaps disbelief, then a deafening roar.

“Growth!” she mentioned. “Every part went loopy.”

PGA Tour participant Fred Funk was greater than 300 yards away, standing within the 18th fairway of the TPC Sawgrass Gamers Stadium Course when he heard the noise.

“What the hell simply occurred?” he requested caddie Paul Jungman.

What, certainly.

The reply: Tiger Woods occurred. He had simply hit the putt that has taken on a life and even a reputation of its personal: the “Higher than Most putt,” 20 years in the past this month on March 24, 2001, through the third spherical of The Gamers.

“Higher than most,” is the phrase NBC Seventeenth-hole tower announcer Gary Koch uttered 3 times — twice when Woods’ 60-foot, triple-breaking, downhill putt on the par-3 Seventeenth gap was on its approach and yet one more after it caught the suitable fringe of the outlet and dropped in, to the amazement, delight and unabashed pleasure of the 1000’s of followers ringing the Island Inexperienced.

“We’ve seen aces, Fred {Couples} hitting his third shot within the gap after he went within the water, Craig Perks, Rickie Fowler, guys successful the match and guys getting their goals crushed,” mentioned NBC golf anchor Dan Hicks. “However there was nothing, so far as being a sheer, scintillating second, like that putt.”

Nobody celebrates a second after which is extra reserved about it after the truth that Woods, who went on to win the primary of his two Gamers Championships two days later in a Monday end. When the putt dropped, Woods gave just a few attribute fist pumps, screamed, “Yeah! Woo! Yeah!” and couldn’t cease smiling till he received to the 18th tee.

Years later, Woods merely says, “I’m simply glad I made it … it was buzzing.”

The putt is also a little bit of an oddity as a result of it’s one of the crucial memorable golf photographs in historical past — on a Saturday. Virtually each shot that has earned its creator immortality for that second was throughout a closing spherical: Gene Sarazen’s 4-wood for an albatross at No. 15 within the 1935 Masters, Jack Nicklaus’ 1-iron strategy and Tom Watson’s chip-in at Pebble Seashore’s Seventeenth gap in U.S. Opens a decade aside, Seve Ballesteros hitting from a parking zone at Royal Lytham and St. Annes within the 1979 Open Championship, Nicklaus’ putt at No. 17 within the 1986 Masters, Larry Mize’s sudden loss of life hole-out at No. 11 a yr later at Augusta, and sure, Woods’ dramatic chip at No. 16 within the 2005 Masters all got here on Sunday.

And on a gap at The Gamers that has produced a lot final-round drama, it’s Woods’ Saturday putt in 2001 that’s the most-replayed and appears etched deeper in match lore than every other shot, lengthy, quick or in between.

“All of it has to do with who hit the shot,” Koch mentioned.

Tiger Woods swings his membership through the 2001 Gamers Championship at The Gamers Membership at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Seashore, Florida. (Picture by Harry How/Allsport)

Climbing into rivalry

Previous to 2001, Woods had made 4 begins in The Gamers Championship and was making progress in deciphering Pete Dye’s devilish design.

As a rookie in 1997, Woods tied for thirty first at 1-over 289. The next season, he tied for thirty fifth, with a 2-over 290. In 1999 he shot his highest 72-hole rating in three Participant begins, 3-over 291, however the course was so laborious and so windy that week that he tied for tenth and was six photographs behind winner David Duval.

Via two rounds in 2000, Woods had but to signal for a rating within the 60s on the Stadium Course and had damaged par solely 5 instances. However a 66 within the third spherical in 2000 arrange a final-round showdown with Hal Sutton and on a Monday end, Sutton survived by one shot, regardless of Woods making eagle at No. 16.

Within the meantime, Woods had gained 5 majors and 25 victories in all. He got here into the 2001 Gamers having gained at Bay Hill and three weeks after The Gamers he would win the Masters to finish the “Tiger Slam” — holding all 4 main titles on the similar time.

He was on the peak of his abilities … however The Gamers, at a course that negated his energy off the tee, continued to elude him.

“It could be good to win,” he mentioned earlier than the match. “Clearly, it’s the perfect subject we play … to have the ability to win on this golf course, that’s extraordinarily demanding, I feel any participant goes to take some satisfaction out of that.”

However Woods started the week in 2001 with a typical Stadium Course spherical for him, at that time in his profession, with an even-par 72. It was his thirteenth rating of both 71, 72 or 73 in 17 aggressive Gamers rounds.

Woods was requested after ending if he had a rating in thoughts that he wanted to shoot for the remainder of the match to have an opportunity.

“If I can go on the market and birdie each gap for the subsequent 54 holes, I feel I’m trying all proper.”

He settled for a 3-under 69 within the second spherical, his first sub-70 rating as a professional on the Stadium Course. However he hit an 8-iron into the water at No. 17 and after some prodding throughout his post-round information convention, unloaded a bit on the outlet.

Tiger Woods went on to win the 2001 Gamers Championship on a Monday end.

“I feel it’s fantastic for the followers to look at, however I feel any participant who performs out right here who truly understands the sport, I don’t assume they’re actually going to say they prefer it,” Woods mentioned. “It’s out on an island the place you might be taking part in a brief shot, however nonetheless, you’ve received to have some room to overlook it. And with the pin areas like right now, it’s to the slope on the suitable, and that’s not a complete lot of room to work with. Due to that, I feel that plenty of guys usually are not going to say it’s a nice gap.”

Woods was 3-under, tied for eighth and 6 photographs behind chief Jerry Kelly.

Tiger Woods: Making his transfer

Mary Sullivan first noticed Tiger Woods play golf within the 1994 U.S. Novice on the Stadium Course. She was amongst a gaggle of Gamers’ volunteers who had been requested to work on the U.S. Novice and she or he walked all 36 holes with Woods within the championship match in opposition to Journey Kuehne.

“Gosh, he was so skinny again then,” mentioned Sullivan a St. Johns County faculty instructor, who has been volunteering at The Gamers for greater than 40 years. “They didn’t rope something off again then. It was simply me and some different individuals they requested to stroll behind them for 36 holes. It was enjoyable as a result of a lot of the guys within the match had been school children and so they seemed excited to be there.”

Sullivan remembers Woods making his comeback from six holes down, and eventually taking the lead when he practically hit his tee shot at No. 17 into the water, then made a birdie putt from off the perimeter.

“My Goodness, he was one thing particular,” she mentioned.

Three years later, Woods was in his first Gamers. Sullivan was on the participant escort committee and was requested to be one of many strolling escorts with Woods.

Solely this time, she had extra firm. Woods was the most popular rookie within the sport’s historical past and was simply weeks away from successful his first main on the Masters.

“They’d some vice-chairmen [from the Players volunteer staff] and another muscle males strolling him round,” Sullivan mentioned.

However a chord was struck between the younger worldwide star and the instructor.

She observed the little issues, akin to Woods’ politeness across the sport’s older stars and to volunteers. She cherished his enthusiasm for the sport, the easy joys of being on the placing inexperienced or being within the warmth of a match.

“One time, he noticed Byron Nelson within the parking zone,” Sullivan mentioned. “Byron was strolling to another person and Tiger took his hat off and stood to 1 aspect, ready for them to complete their dialog earlier than he shook his hand and requested how he was doing. I informed Tiger later how proud I used to be of him and the way in which he handled individuals. I assume it’s the schoolteacher in me.”

Sullivan started serving as a strolling escort with Woods at each Gamers. Each time she met him within the parking zone, she received what she calls, “my Momma hug,” from Woods. She additionally baked him chocolate chip cookies (till after 9/11, when the Tour banned gamers receiving items of meals from followers), which Woods devoured.

The third spherical in 2001 was no completely different. Sullivan and the opposite strolling escorts waited for Woods within the parking zone, went with him to the apply space, after which to the primary tee, the place Woods teed off with Phil Mickelson.

“He was very relaxed that day,” Sullivan mentioned.

Woods performed prefer it. After a gap bogey at No. 1, he made his transfer, with birdies at Nos. 2, 3 and 4.

After six pars in a row, Woods stepped on the gasoline with a brief eagle putt at No. 11, after spanking a 4-iron 229 yards over water, then a birdie on the twelfth.

Three extra secure pars after which Woods received up-and-down for birdie at No. 16 and was three photographs behind Kelly.

He then practically outguessed himself on the Seventeenth tee. Dealing with the standard Saturday front-right pin, Woods mentioned it was an ideal wedge quantity, but when he drew it barely, the ball would possibly spin again into the water.

As an alternative, he hit a three-quarter, reduce 9-iron, hoping to hit it into the slope of the inexperienced. However the wind modified as Woods made his swing.

“The ball simply received up and flatlined on me,” he mentioned. “It was simply gone.”

By “gone,” Woods meant on the again shelf of the inexperienced, just a few inches onto the collar. The Tour’s ShotLink expertise which measures the gap of putts was nonetheless two years away, so the traditionally accepted distance of the putt has been 60 toes.

By way of the place the outlet was and the place Woods’ ball was, it was tough to have a birdie putt try that may be any longer.

CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 20: NBC commenators Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks appear on set during the second round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 20, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

NBC commentators Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks seem on set through the second spherical of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Membership on July 20, 2018, in Carnoustie, Scotland. Each had been on the published the day Woods sunk his “Higher than Most” putt. (Picture by Andrew Redington/Getty Photos)

NBC plots a fast technique

NBC went to industrial and rapidly, Koch informed producer Tommy Roy, Hicks and analyst Johnny Miller what he had seen of each participant whose tee shot landed on the highest shelf of the inexperienced, or behind the outlet: the putt was a double- and even a triple-breaker, relying on how far left it was and could be motoring when it hit the downslope.

Within the group earlier than, Funk had a putt of about 15 toes, however down the trail Woods’ ball must take to the outlet as soon as it hit the slope, and four-putted for double-bogey.

“I informed Tommy on the ‘talk-back’ that everybody had putted this virtually off the inexperienced,” Koch mentioned. “He mentioned, ‘nice … let’s set the scene up once we got here out of the industrial.”

Hicks mentioned Roy and assistant producer Tommy Randolph had been the perfect he’s ever labored with on plotting technique for the subsequent shot throughout a industrial break.

“We had been blessed to have a few moments to consider what we had been seeing,” Hicks mentioned. “Among the finest conversations I’ve had with producers have come within the seconds earlier than you come again and the fellows did an unimaginable job setting it up.”

Left unsaid was the improbability of Woods making the putt.

“I do know it’s Tiger, it’s 2001 and he’s on the peak of his powers,” Hicks mentioned. “However I’m not considering at that time he’s going to make it.”

Fred Funk, proven right here reacting after lacking a putt on the 2006 Zurich Traditional of New Orleans, four-putted the inexperienced on No. 16 on the 2001 Gamers Championship. Tiger Woods was watching. Picture by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports activities.

Only a few individuals knew, nonetheless, that between Woods’ chip and putt at No. 16, he watched Funk hit every one among his 4 putts. Whereas Woods would inform Koch later that he by no means practiced a putt from that spot on the inexperienced to the Saturday gap placement, he had already seen how Funk’s putt reacted.

“Glad I may assist,” Funk mentioned. “That was one of the crucial embarrassing moments of my golf profession.”

Whereas Woods was stalking his putt and caddie Steve Williams was on the point of have a tendency the pin, Mackay was serving to Mickelson learn a 20-foot birdie putt that was on the prime of the slope, to the left of Woods’ ball.

“I’ve seen Tiger do some wonderful issues,” Mackay mentioned. “All of us have. But it surely seemed so out of left subject that he may make that putt.”

Koch, Hicks and Miller additionally helped set the scene from a crowd standpoint — there was little inexperienced house to be seen on the banks surrounding the outlet, and Koch famous that when he got here there round 9 a.m. to have a look at the pin positions, individuals had been already jockeying for prime viewing spots.

Hicks took be aware of a phenomenon distinctive to The Gamers championship: typically, the largest crowds of the week are on Fridays and Saturdays.

“The gang and the ambiance had been off the charts,” Hicks mentioned.

Woods addressed the ball and Koch instantly noticed that Woods had picked up on what each participant close to that spot had missed that day.

“He was aiming proper, however at some extent the place the ball would go additional to the left than anybody else had,” mentioned Koch, a six-time PGA Tour winner from the College of Florida who has been engaged on NBC’s golf protection since 1996.

What additionally wasn’t occurring was Koch rehearsing what he would say in regards to the putt, a method or one other.

“I attempt to be as spontaneous as potential,” he mentioned. “Some guys would possibly attempt to script stuff however to me, essentially the most pure is no matter comes out when it occurs. Typically it doesn’t sound all that nice, however it comes from the center.”

COMING TUESDAY: Tiger Woods does the unthinkable, and Gary Koch’s name completely captures the second. Additionally this week: Adam Scott, who was there and mentioned Tiger would make the putt; Butch Harmon because the witness to Scott’s name and what Tiger mentioned to Butch afterward; Mickelson’s ideas 20 years later and extra.

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