A week before winning the Masters in 1997, Tiger Woods played a round with Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill.
In an excerpt from his upcoming memoir, A Life Well Played, Palmer describes playing against then 21-year-old Woods on the eve of his first major championship victory:
“We had a friendly little match for $100, and hard as I tried, I couldn’t quite hold off a player of that caliber, in his prime — not even on my own golf course.
Tiger closed me out on the 17th hole. On the 18th tee, deciding that I didn’t want to let Tiger get into my pocket without a last-ditch effort, I challenged Tiger to a one-hole playoff, double or nothing.
We both hit good drives in the fairway on what is Bay Hill’s tough closing par-4 that measures 458 yards and features an oblong green that wraps around a lake. Of course, Tiger was miles ahead of me. I needed a driver to reach the green with my second shot, and I wasn’t going to back down. I pulled out the driver. You know: go for broke.”
Palmer wouldn’t concede, eventually halving the hole. Watching his determination, Woods turned to Alastair Johnston, Palmer’s business manager, and said, “Arnold never gives up, does he?”
This is why, Palmer writes, “I like to claim, with a wink, that I helped Tiger warm up for his first major championship win.”