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'One of the best shots I ever hit,' says Woods

A 202-yard fairway bunker shot over tall trees from a bad lie turns certain bogey into incredible birdie.

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002

CHASKA, Minn. -- There was little reason to be out of the house, let alone on a golf course. The wind howled, sending the wind-chill factor into the 40s. The ground was soaked from 3 inches of overnight rain. And it was barely time for breakfast.

But Tiger Woods still had work to do Saturday morning, and he rewarded those who arrived early.

"With the conditions the way they were and the lie I had, it was still one of the best shots I've ever hit," Woods said. "It was a lot of luck and some pretty good timing."

And should Woods win the PGA Championship today, his ninth major title, he undoubtedly will look back on the final hole of the second round as a huge factor. It became even bigger when Woods played the third round in 72 and fell five behind Justin Leonard.

After par at the 17th, Woods hit a poor drive at the 457-yard finishing hole, hooking it into a fairway bunker. With gusts of wind at 35 mph, it would be difficult enough to get his ball on the green. But huge trees blocked his path. And the lie in the bunker was no bargain. The ball was below his feet, sloping away from him, leaving little room for him to take a stance in the sand.

With 202 yards to the pin and only yards between him and the trees, Woods chose a 3-iron.

"The only thing I had to make sure I did was to not lose it right with that wind coming hard off the left like that," he said. "If I would have lost it, I could have actually hit it over the grandstand. I just tried to make sure I kept it level and hit it solid.

"I hit it so flush it was scary."

Woods took the shot straight over the trees and it landed some 8 feet from the cup, stopping 12 feet away. He drained the birdie putt for 3-under 69, two out of the lead after the second round.

"It was one of the all-time best shots that I've made," he said.

Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, was more emphatic.

"That was the single greatest shot I've ever seen him hit," said Williams, who has been with Woods for seven of his eight major victories. "Canada doesn't even touch this one."

Williams was referring to Woods' 6-iron shot two years ago at the Canadian Open. On the 72nd hole of the tournament, leading Grant Waite by a stroke, Woods had 218 yards to the hole, out of a bunker, over water. He hit the shot onto the back of the green, setting up a two-putt birdie for victory.

"That was pretty good, with it being the last hole of the tournament, but this was only the second round," Woods said. "It was still one of the best shots I ever hit."

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