UNITED STATES – MARCH 18: Tiger Woods (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA)
By Christopher Powers
It’s Players Championship week, which means you’re going to be hearing and seeing a lot of the same things that we do every year at TPC Sawgrass. At the top of the list is Tiger Woods’ famous “better than most putt” from the third round of the 2001 Players, made famous both by the difficulty of the putt and Gary Koch’s iconic call of said putt. In case you haven’t seen it enough on Golf Channel this week, don’t worry, you’ll be fed a heavy dose of it throughout the week during the coverage, as is tradition. The only difference this year being that it will have that
completely over-the-top electric theme music playing over it.
Obviously, watching the putt never gets old, but even the staunchest of Tiger fans will tell you they’ve watched and heard the call enough times by now. That being said, we’d never say no to hearing Woods break the memorable moment down, which he did on Tuesday during his press conference ahead of this week’s Players. When Woods was asked what he remembers most about “better than most,” he gave a thorough answer that included a random dagger at poor Fred Funk.
“Well it was a crap iron shot, first of all,” said Woods, whose ball just hung on the back fringe, barely staying dry. “I get about … well, see, the truth is that I had a little teach before that putt. We had a delay there on the 17th tee, and Fred Funk was playing right in front of us. He hit it up on the top shelf and he 4-putted the hole and so I saw how fast that first … as it came over the rise and as it started going to the right, how much it picked up speed. He almost putted it off the green. In fact he did putt it off the green. So I knew how quick it was, so I gave it a little bit more. It broke left a lot at the top with the old green. It broke left a lot at the top and then it just snapped at the right.”
We’ve seen Woods gather information on his own chip shots or putts that roll past the hole, but being able to keep an eye on a competitor’s putt up by the green from 140 yards away, and using that info to his advantage, is next-level. If not for Funk, who shot a third-round 77 and finished T-33, one of golf’s greatest moments never would have occurred:
“Yeah, I hit my spot and I was just hoping that it would take the break because I saw Fred’s, how much it went to the right at the end, and my putt was not going right. I’m like, would you start breaking. And as soon as it started to break, I’m like, stop breaking. And then it caught the low side of the hole and went in.”
Considering both the length and break of the putt, and the situation (Woods was three back late on Saturday), it has to be one of his greatest putts ever, though Tiger will tell you he’s had much, much bigger ones.
“Where does it rank? I’ve made some good putts, but that was — it wasn’t for the win of the tournament necessarily. I think I was still behind Jerry Kelly at the time, and so it was on a Saturday afternoon, but it definitely gave me some momentum, and as far as some of my greatest putts it will be up there on the lag putts, but I’ve had some other putts I thought. Even the short one at Valhalla to get into a playoff, I thought that was a bigger putt.”
Fair enough (even though he did go on to win). For what it’s worth, Woods hit another so-so iron shot in some heavy winds at the 17th on Tuesday morning at TPC Sawgrass, coming up about 40 short of the hole. He left the pin in and hit a putt that some would call …. BETTER THAN MOST … and it hit the hole and missed, causing playing partner Justin Thomas to point and laugh. Imagine Woods’ putt in 2001 was made with the flagstick in? My, how times have changed.