Sixth Sense Just when it looked as if his improbable winning streak would end at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods roared to the biggest comeback victory of his Tour career

Feb. 14, 2000
Feb. 14, 2000

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Feb. 14, 2000

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Sixth Sense Just when it looked as if his improbable winning streak would end at Pebble Beach, Tiger Woods roared to the biggest comeback victory of his Tour career

Remember in The Natural when Roy Hobbs broke Wonderboy, his
trusty bat? Same thing happened to Tiger Woods last week at the
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Playing the 16th hole at
Poppy Hills on Friday, which was a continuation of a first round
that had been delayed, inevitably, by high winds and heavy rain,
Woods loosed one of his vortex-inducing swings and then watched
in horror as the head of his driver flew down the fairway,
leaving him with nothing but a shaft in his hands and a hole in
his heart. Understand, this was no mere golf club. This was the
magic wand Woods had used to bash his way to five consecutive
victories spanning two millennia. "It's a weird feeling," a
subdued Woods said of the incident. Imagine how the ball felt.
It still traveled 275 yards. With typical single-mindedness
Woods went on to birdie the 16th and shoot a 68, but the
breaking of this particular driver, which he had been swinging
since 1998, seemed potently symbolic. Woods blamed the beheading
on bad epoxy, and for most of the Pro-Am it looked as if the
glue that had held together his remarkable win streak--superior
ball-striking, clutch putting and outrageous good fortune--was
finally going to fail as well.

This is an article from the Feb. 14, 2000 issue

Until, of course, Woods hit what may be, given the
circumstances, the best back-to-back approach shots ever seen on
the PGA Tour. Tiger's legend needs no burnishing, but what he
did on the 15th and 16th holes at Pebble Beach on Monday
afternoon will not soon be forgotten. The first approach, from
97 yards out on 15, landed three feet to the right of the hole
and rolled straight in for an eagle 2. The next, from 114 yards
on the par-4 16th, hit a foot closer to the pin but missed the
cup by an inch as it rolled past. Perhaps Woods had misread the

When Woods tapped in for birdie, he had moved to within a stroke
of tournament leader Matt Gogel. Gogel, playing three groups
behind Woods, had led Tiger by seven at the turn, but a bogey at
15, the 29-year-old rookie's third in five holes, dropped him
into a tie. When Woods added another birdie on 18--putting him
four under over the final four holes and in at 64--Gogel was a
goner, and Byron Nelson's DiMaggioesque streak of 11 consecutive
victories, accomplished in 1945, was once again in play. "I was
amazed," Gogel said of Woods's performance. "I will never be
amazed again."

It was hardly the outcome that had seemed likely when Woods
broke his driver. Wielding a backup during last Saturday's
second round at Spyglass Hill, Woods hit only seven of 14
fairways and shot a 73 to fall eight strokes behind the midway
leader, Vijay Singh.

Though Woods was clearly fighting his swing, he was really
undone by Pebble's distinctive brand of giggle golf. Celebrities
yukking it up for the cameras is barely tolerable even when the
hackers are likable, but this year all the old faves were
missing. Jack Lemmon was sidelined by an undisclosed surgery,
and Michael Douglas was tending to his pregnant fiancee,
Catherine Zeta-Jones, but the most damaging absence was that of
Bill Murray, who took his show on the road, to last month's Bob
Hope Chrysler Classic. In his place we were given Ray Romano, a
man whose next funny joke will be his first. Romano spent
stultifying amounts of time mugging for the cameras (surely it's
just a coincidence that his sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, is
on CBS, the network that gave him so much face time) and then
pretended not to enjoy all the attention, saying, "I don't want
to be Bill Murray--that's too much pressure." Don't worry, Ray.
We know Bill Murray. Bill Murray is a friend of ours. You, sir,
are no Bill Murray.

Romano would've been simply an irritating footnote were he not
playing in the group in front of Woods throughout the first
three rounds. The soul-sucking effects of Romano's glacial pace
were especially evident at Spyglass, where an exhausted and
irritated Woods came apart over the final holes. Woods played
Spy's brutal back nine first and was a solid one under, but he
was forced to wait so long on the 5th hole that he passed the
time by repeatedly bouncing a ball on the face of his sand
wedge, the move he made famous in his celebrated Nike
commercial. When it was finally time to resume the real golf,
Woods bogeyed the 6th hole from the rough and then failed to
make birdie on the 7th, a cupcake of a par-5. On the 8th, Woods
three-putted from five feet, and after clipping a tree with his
approach at the 9th, he had to get up and down from 128 yards
for a par. "I didn't hit it very well," Woods said. "I didn't
putt well, I didn't chip well, and it took six hours and 17
minutes to play. Other than that, it was a nice day."

Asked about all the shenanigans in front of him, Woods bowed his
head, fell silent for a long while, then said, with utmost
diplomacy, "Well, it's been interesting." What was left unsaid
was, I'm chasing the ghost of Byron Nelson, and Ray freakin'
Romano is holding me up on every shot!

Things got worse on Sunday when Woods--and Romano--played Pebble
Beach with all the attendant TV cameras and stargazers. Woods
birdied three of the first six holes, moving to within four
strokes of the lead and reviving memories of the '97 Pro-Am, in
which he scorched Pebble for a record weekend (63-64) to nearly
steal the tournament from Mark O'Meara. But this time Woods was
unable to capitalize on his early momentum, especially after he
was forced to idle for 34 minutes because of a fog delay. He
shot a 68, but that only put him into a five-way tie for eighth,
five strokes behind the co-leaders, Gogel and Mark Brooks.

Wrong Way Ray and his Tour pro partner, poor Eric Booker,
finally exited stage right on Monday, having missed the cut by a
mile. Woods responded by birdieing three of the first seven
holes to get to 10 under, but Gogel was hotter, playing Pebble's
front nine in 31 to leave himself five strokes clear of the
field. Gogel's turtleneck got a little tight at the outset of
the back nine, though, and he made consecutive bogeys on 11 and
12, moving Woods, who had birdied 12, to within four strokes.
Then the miracles started.

The tournament was won and lost on the 15th, an innocuous,
397-yard par-4. First, Woods made his shocking eagle. Gogel, now
swinging with one hand around his throat, hooked his tee shot
into the wet rough, which was longer than in previous years as
Pebble Beach begins to let down its hair in preparation for the
100th U.S. Open, in June. From there he made the critical bogey
that left him at 14 under. Woods's closing birdie gave him his
first lead of the day. Gogel, meanwhile, missed makable, albeit
bumpy, birdie tries on the final three holes.

Woods had been slow to embrace talk of his win streak, which is
now tied with Ben Hogan's jag in 1948 as the second-longest in
history. But on Monday a playful Woods allowed, "It's not over
till it's over." That, of course, sounds like Yogi Berra, which
brings us back to Roy Hobbs. His movie-ending home run, with the
Savoy Special, was improbable even by Hollywood standards, but
as Woods proved at Pebble, the truth can be more unbelievable
than fiction.

COLOR PHOTO: DEANNE FITZMAURICE/SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE/AP EAGLE EYE Woods got back in the hunt in a hurry when he spun in his 97-yard approach at the 15th.