Over 40 days, GOLF.com is rolling out Tiger Woods’ 40 biggest moments. Our ranking started on Nov. 21 and will culminate on Dec. 30, which is Tiger’s 40th birthday. That’s 40 Tiger moments. In 40 days. Ranked. Click here to learn more about our list.
Tiger’s 40 Biggest Moments: No. 17 – ‘Better Than Most’ at 2001 Players Championship
Tiger Woods was golf’s hottest topic of conversation in March 2001.
Because he’d won three straight major championships and would be going for four in a row — the erstwhile Grand Slam dubbed the Tiger Slam?
Nope. Because he was in a terrible slump.
Yeah, Tiger had gone eight PGA Tour events in a row without winning. Based on Tiger’s high level of play, that qualified as a slump in the eyes of the public and some media members.
It sounds stupid now, especially given that Woods completed the Tiger Slam a month later, but that’s how it was when Tiger arrived to play the Bay Hill tournament hosted by Arnold Palmer.
The slump talk didn’t last long. First, he won the Bay Hill Invitational for the second straight time. Then, in a Monday finish at the TPC Stadium Course, he shot a 5-under 67 in the final round to hold off Vijay Singh and win his first Players Championship.
Tiger went from “slumping” back to being the hottest player in the world.
“Now that I’ve won two in a row, I’m sure they’ll have to write about something else instead of my slump,” Woods joked.
In Saturday’s third round at Sawgrass, he sank a 60-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that broke in at least three different directions. It has been replayed hundreds of times since then, along with the call by NBC’s Gary Koch, who repeated, “Better than most!” as the putt finally fell into the cup. After Koch’s first “Better than most,” Johnny Miller saw what was about to happen and added excitedly, “How about in?” He was right.
Sunday, Woods holed a 90-foot chip shot, too.
“Some of the stuff he does, it’s superhuman,” said fellow player Paul Azinger.
It was Tiger’s first win at Sawgrass, which was still being played in March, and the seventh time he’d had back-to-back wins. Nobody had ever won the Players Championship and the Masters in the same year, a feat that was overlooked because the latter also happened to complete the incredible Tiger Slam.
“I’m headed in the right direction,” Woods said. “Looking at the trophies on my mantel, three are lined up. Put another one up there, it looks pretty good.”
The only time his Players victory was in doubt was at the par-3 17th hole on Monday. Tiger’s 9-iron shot came dangerously close to going over the back-right edge of the green and into the water hazard. It stopped in the rough, almost up against the yellow hazard line by the water’s edge. He got up and down for par and was able to safely play for a bogey on the 18th hole for the victory.
“I knew I hit it the right distance,” Woods said of the shot at 17. “No big deal.”
Winning the Players, though? That was a big deal.
Check back on GOLF.com every day until Tiger’s birthday on Dec. 30 for a new moment in our [email protected] countdown.
No. 22: The Apology Press Conference
No. 25: Signs First Deal With Nike
No. 27: Winning Back-to-Back Masters
No. 30: Ugly Breakup With Steve Williams
No. 33: Relationship With Lindsey Vonn
No. 35: A Shot in the Dark at Firestone
No. 36: Television Debut at Age 2