When Tiger raised the roof
3 Min Read
What do you remember about Tiger's epic hole-in-one in 1997 at TPC Scottsdale? Here's the view from people who witnessed it live
Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin
The date: Jan. 25, 1997. Tiger Woods had turned 21 less than a month earlier, yet the buzz around him was already palpable. Tiger had won three of the first nine starts as a professional on the PGA TOUR, including two weeks earlier when he beat Tom Lehman in a playoff at La Costa.
He was still three months away from his first major win, but everybody knew this was a superstar in the making.
So here he was, in the third round of the then-Phoenix Open, standing on the tee box at the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. Although the stands that would give the hole its "stadium" effect had yet to be built, the crowd was still raucous, ready to see how the kid would handle golf's loudest hole.
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Tiger was not among the contenders, having started his round 10 strokes off the lead and well off the pace of the leader (and eventual winner) Steve Jones. But he was about to add to his legend with one of the most memorable shots of his career -- a hole-in-one followed by his raise-the-roof celebration.
With Tiger now back at TPC Scottsdale to play in this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open -- it's the first time he's played the event since 2001 -- let's look back at that moment. Not through Tiger's eyes but through the eyes of others who were there at TPC Scottsdale. And if you were part of the gallery -- or just remember watching the shot that day -- please join the discussion below.
Woods' playing partner
Fan on the 16th
Event volunteer, now TOUR professional
"It was kind of fun," he said. "Tiger was still excited. It was his first hole-in-one on the TOUR and the 16th at Phoenix on Saturday is a pretty good time to do it."
When Vasseur got home, his wife said, "Hey, I heard that Tiger kid made a hole-in-one." Almost before she got the words out, Vasseur grinned and said, "Yeah, I was there."
Sunday's newspaper brought another surprise -- and tons of phone calls from Vasseur's friends. He headed back to TPC Scottsdale for the final round and was determined to connect with the photographer, Jeff Topping, in hopes of getting a copy.
Turns out, Vasseur didn't have to look far.
He sat down for lunch in the media center and happened to glance at the credential of the man sitting across from him. It was Topping. So Vasseur told him he'd been looking for him and the photographer asked why.
Copies of the Republic were laying all over the table. Vasseur pointed at the photo. Or, more specifically, the guy to the right of Tiger wearing the white shirt and Bermuda shorts with his arms thrust into the air. Suddenly, the light dawned.
"He said, 'Thanks -- the way you were and this other guy with Tiger in the middle made for a great picture," Vasseur recalled.
The photo is now framed and on display in Vasseur's home office. He can show it to you on his smart phone, too. Vasseur would love to get Woods to sign it someday "but being a realist, I know the chances aren't good."
"I've told the story lots of times and people seem to enjoy it," said Vasseur, who'll be at TPC Scottsdale again this year helping the Thunderbirds out with their marketing efforts.
"One time, an older member of the media, told me, 'I can't believe you did that. There's no cheering in press box.' Are you kidding me? I was, like, it was freaking awesome."
The photo below isn't the one that appeared in the Arizona Republic, but it does highlight John Vasseur as he's celebrating Tiger's ace. (Photo by Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Competitor at the course
Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.