Video Review: Tiger’s first PGA Tour win
Have you ever gone on YouTube and realized that two hours later, you’re still watching Seve Ballesteros videos? What about Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, or instructional videos from Bobby Jones? You can get caught in an endless number of rabbit holes on YouTube, especially if you know where to look and so I figured that I could probably turn some of these videos into actual posts. We’ll keep it light, embed the videos and have some fun with screenshots, GIFs and commentary. If something has been bolded, you can click on it for more information.
Today, we’ll take a look at the first professional victory in the career of Tiger Woods, the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational at TPC Summerlin.
As of this writing, Tiger Woods sits second on the all-time PGA Tour wins list with 79 victories, trailing Sam Snead by three. His fourteen major championship wins also places him in second, four behind Jack Nicklaus’ total of 18, and for most players, those numbers would be unfathomable, but not for Tiger Woods. As weird as it sounds, all of this success was expected and even more jarring than that is the idea that most people would argue that he’s underachieved. He was supposed to change the world.
Everyone knew that Tiger was going to be a star. His 21 victories as an amateur, including three straight U.S. Amateur titles from 1994 through 1996, were proof that the golf world wasn’t waiting for its next big star. He was already here.
It wasn’t all positive though. Tiger turned pro ahead of the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, and despite making an ace in his first professional start, he ended up in a tie for 60th place. He would play the next three weeks with a finish no worse than 11th place before withdrawing late on the Wednesday ahead of the Buick Challenge, citing fatigue after playing for five consecutive weeks. The decision didn’t exactly go over well with the players on tour, but he was back out the following week for the Las Vegas Invitational, and it was a big deal. Everyone wanted to see Tiger, and it didn’t take a long to see why.
0:45 – Jim Kelly and a very young Gary Koch start us off on ESPN
2:25 – $297,000 goes to the winner, with a total purse of $1,650,000. When Ben Martin won here in October of 2014, he took home $1,116,000. #TigerTax
3:16 – Shot of the leaderboard for the first time. Not exactly what you would call loaded.
4:11 – Fred Couples doing an ad for the Cadillac Seville: “Only one turns on the power like Fred Couples.”
2:56 – Stockton Jr. playing in his 33rd (!!!) event of the season.
5:37 – Tiger out of a fairway bunker, hits it within 20 feet. Koch: “From that position, most of the players on the PGA Tour would not have been able to reach the green. The lip on that bunker is so high.”
8:35 – Koch on Tiger: “I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this young man and playing this golf course for the first time. Has obviously been able to figure out the greens here. Now, he does have Peter Jacobsen’s long time caddie Mike Cowan and he has helped a tremendous amount. These greens are tough to read.” Then…
12:04 – Pro-am winner Lee Siefert has perfect hair:
32:41 – Tiger’s approach on the par-5 13th from over 250 yards, and Koch can’t believe that he’s taking out an iron.
- Koch: “Second shot of over 250 yards and he’s using an iron, and choking up on it a little bit too, Jim. Must be nice.”
- Kelly: “Just take a little bit off.”
- Koch: “Yeah, right. Little soft 2-iron from 255.”
- Kelly: “Throw the changeup at ’em.”
1:29 – Tiger gets his first chance to tie for the lead with this birdie putt on 13:
3:44 – In the third round, a fan asked Stockton Jr. if he gets nervous having to hit a shot over the water. Stockton: “I didn’t really think about it, but I’m not going to walk near the gallery and talk to him today. I don’t need that kind of added pressure.”
4:32 – Look at how smooth this swing is from Tiger:
9:14 – And of course, he finishes it off to take his first lead:
Frank Beard: “Boy, you ought to see these people out here. This reminds me of the Arnold Palmer days. They are absolutely going crazy running down the fairways.”
12:19 – 293 yard par-4 15th, and Tiger takes out 3-wood. He actually lands it past pin high to the right of the green, and has it roll into the back bunker after a carry of about 315 yards. That doesn’t sound so impressive these days when you can see what guys like Bubba and Dustin Johnson can do, but back then, it was pretty much unheard of for a player to hit a ball that far when the driver was still in the bag. Stunning.
15:08 – Leave it to Phil and Bones to completely whiff on a high five.
20:32 – Tiger was paired with long time PGA Tour player Keith Fergus on Sunday, who actually lost his card and got it back by winning twice on the Nike Tour in 1994. Even then, the power of Tiger and his gallery was apparent.
Beard: “Well, Fergus is a very quiet man. I’m sure that he would have rather been any place but playing with Tiger today when he needs a big cheque to get into that top 125.”
23:54 – Leaderboard update:
25:57 – Kelly on Tiger: “Hundreds waited for autographs the other day. He had his mom by his side, he posted for pictures. Very personable and very patient the other day.”
27:40 – First time winners in 1996. I admit that I had to look up who Clarence Rose was.
30:50 – Tiger has 199 left after a drive of 361 yards. Beard: “I tell you, he plays a game that I haven’t seen in a long, long time. I mean, Gary, you can almost take a lottery on what he’s pulled out of there. Maybe as little as an 8-iron.”
37:55 – Kelly relaying a conversation that he had with Davis Love about Tiger:
“You know, Davis Love III had a great story earlier in the week about this man. Davis said everybody in the media making all the hooplah about how much Tiger has to make to make the top 125, what he’s doing so far and he said it doesn’t surprise Davis at all that he’s fighting into contention and now he’s in the lead. All Tiger Woods thinks about is winning and Davis points out that’s the difference between the top players and the guys who are just getting by.”
2:57 – After making birdie on the 16th, we get one of Tiger’s club twirls. Not as refined yet.
15:43 – More praise for Tiger:
- Kelly: “You start to wonder Gary Koch, when they’ll run out of adjectives. And he’s only two months as a pro, and he’s handled it with class.”
- Koch: “Well, I have to say that every adjective that I’ve heard so far has been pretty accurate. Absolutely the complete golf game. There was some question about his ability to control the distance that he hit his short irons, but he’s worked very hard on that in the last year with Butch Harmon his instructor, and he’s certainly done a nice job of that today.”
17:21 – Tiger with a 6-iron from 193 yards:
Beard: “This guy doesn’t know what the centre of the green is, I don’t believe. I don’t think he knows what water and sand is. He certainly doesn’t know what fear is.”
23:00 – Tiger taps in for his par, getting to 27-under par, and waits for the guys behind him to finish.
38:05 – Love makes birdie on the par-5 16th to tie Tiger at the top.
2:02 – Nice little club twirl from Stockton Jr.
Part Six – The Tiger Woods/Davis Love III playoff
5:44 – Both players find the fairway from the tee, with Tiger playing first.
Love would find the bunker long and left, leaving a tough shot that he would send six feet past the hole.
11:13 – Tiger’s birdie putt rolls by, but he would tap in for par, forcing Love to make his to extend.
13:38 – Tiger’s post tournament interview is great to watch:
And something we’ll never see again, Tiger giving Butch Harmon a big hug:
Tiger didn’t wait long for his next win, taking the Walt Disney World Classic a few weeks later before winning four times in 1997, including the Masters by twelve shots over Tom Kite.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and if you have any suggestions for what I should look at next, let me know on Twitter.