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Nicklaus says Woods’s chip was ‘most unbelievable’ he’s seen, and he’s seen plenty

Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus
Fred Vuich / SI
Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus shared a laugh after Woods won the Memorial.

DUBLIN, Ohio – After it was all over, there wasn’t much left to do except talk about “The Shot.”

Jack Nicklaus said it was the “most unbelievable, gutsy shot”  he’d ever seen. Tiger Woods said it was one of the hardest shots he’d ever pulled off.

However you want to quantify it, it was the shot that won Woods his fifth Memorial title and tied him with the Golden Bear at 73 PGA Tour victories.

After hitting his tee shot long into the rough at the par-3 16th, Woods opened up the clubface on his 60-degree wedge, took a big swing and hoped to get the ball inside eight or 10 feet. Woods said the ball came out of the rough perfectly, and he watched with the rest of us as it trickled into the hole for a birdie.

“I went for it,” Woods said. “I pulled it off, and for it to land as soft as it did was kind of a surprise because it was baked out, and it was also downhill running away from me. It just fell in. I didn't think it was going to get there at one point. Kind of like 16 at Augusta, I thought I was going to leave it short somehow, and then it fell in.”

Just then, Nicklaus walked into the press center and sat down next to Woods. The tournament host had spent the past hour marveling at Tiger’s chip, and he didn’t back off his comment at the trophy presentation, when he said it was the best shot he had ever seen.

“Under the circumstances, the circumstances being Tiger has been struggling, he found himself in a position in a tournament, and it was either fish or cut bait. He had one place to land the ball, he's playing a shot that if he leaves it short, he's going to leave himself again a very difficult shot; if he hits it long, he's going to probably lose the tournament,” Nicklaus said. “He lands the ball exactly where it has to land. It doesn't make a difference whether it went in the hole or not.  Going in the hole was a bonus. But what a shot. I don't think under the circumstances I've ever seen a better shot.”

Those are strong words considering Nicklaus has seen, and hit, some pretty good shots in his time. Remember that 1-iron he hit at Pebble? That second shot into 15 at the 1986 Masters? Tom Watson’s chip-in at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble was pretty amazing, too.

We all have our favorites. Maybe Tiger’s chip-in is Jack’s favorite now.

When asked where he would rank it, Woods would only say it was one of the toughest shots he’d ever pulled off. The toughest, he said, was a chip-in to get into a playoff in Japan at the 2005 Dunlop Phoenix Open.

“But obviously you guys never saw it,” Woods said to much laughter. “That was a pretty sweet shot.”

Wherever Woods’s shot ranks on the all-time list, before everyone walked off the 18th green Sunday, Nicklaus made sure Tiger’s chip-in would be No. 1 on at least one list. As he was about to be interviewed on ESPN, Nicklaus told the reporter that Woods’s chip-in had better be No. 1 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.

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