Golf has had few amateurs like Tiger Woods and the 95 previous U.S. Amateur Championships have had few finishes like the one Sunday at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
Woods did what no one had ever done - not Bobby Jones, not Jack Nicklaus - and won a third consecutive amateur title. But it was anything but easy.
Steve Scott, a very game 19-year-old from the University of Florida, led from No. 3 until the next-to-the last hole of the 36-hole final and lost on the second playoff hole.
“I’m going to celebrate like hell tonight,” said Woods, who tapped in a 2-footer for the victory. “I got off to an awful start this morning and I didn’t start making any putts until the very end.”
It was a stirring comeback by Woods, displaying once again that he has the heart and the courage to back up his brilliant golf game.
He was 5-down with 16 holes to play and 2-down with three to go.
Playing his best when he needed it most, Woods hit 28 of the last 29 greens after starting the morning round with a fat 41 and shot a 65 in the second 18, making five birdies and an eagle.
“I’ve played better before in my life,” Woods said. “But I’ve never been in this situation where I’ve played this well.”
Amazingly, Scott hung with him.
“When I was 2-up with three to go, I thought I had a good chance,” Scott said. “But you know Tiger. I didn’t give him the holes, he earned them. I was trying to stop history.”
But no one has been able to stop Woods’ march through golfing history the last six years as he has won three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur titles and then three straight U.S. Amateurs.
When he tapped in for the winning par on the 38th hole, he fell into emotional hugs with his mother, Kultida, father, Earl, and coach Butch Harmon.
The big question - when he will turn professional - remained unanswered.
“I can’t think of that right now,” Woods said. “I’ll know better next week what’s going on.”
From the time Woods hit his first golf shot as a 10-month-old imitating his father’s swing in their Southern California garage, he has walked a determined trail to golfing greatness. No step was bigger than this brilliant playoff victory, the second-longest finals match in the U.S. Amateur.
“It’s probably the greatest amateur match ever and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Scott said, fighting back tears. “I feel like a complete winner.”
The back nine of the second 18 was a rollicking shootout in which both players came up a with clutch shots when they needed them - Scott chipping in on No. 10, Woods making a 34-foot eagle putt on No. 11, Scott getting a birdie at No. 14 and then Woods making a 6-footer on No. 16 and a 30-foot birdie on No. 17 to finally get even in the match.
There may no way to overestimate Woods’ domination of amateur golf.
His 18 consecutive victories - a record - came in gruelling match play competition where one bad round or one opponent with a hot putter could end a tournament.
And this week, Woods played under the extreme weight of expectation and stood strong through a fatiguing 156 holes of golf in searing heat that neared 100 degrees.
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