The story behind 'Better than most!'
Fifteen years after his iconic call at THE PLAYERS, NBC's Gary Koch discusses his coverage of Tiger Woods' famous putt
May 09, 2016
By Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
- Tiger Woods' memorable birdie on the par-3 17th hole in Round 3 sparked his first PLAYERS title in 2001. (Harry How/Getty Images)
It’s not often that a shot from Saturday is the most memorable one, especially in a narrow victory on one of golf’s most dramatic stages.
Tiger Woods’ victory at the 2001 PLAYERS Championship is remembered for his long birdie putt at the par-3 17th during the third round at TPC Sawgrass. It happened on March 24, 2001; THE PLAYERS Championship moved to May in 2007.
The accompanying call from NBC’s Gary Koch – a repeated declaration that the putt was, well, you know, "Better than most!' – helped the putt become historic. This year’s PLAYERS marks 15 years since Woods sank that putt that rolled slowly across the 17th green, down its steep slope and into the hole. Woods went on win the tournament by one shot over Vijay Singh. It was the first of Woods’ two PLAYERS titles.
He also won the 1994 U.S. Amateur at TPC Sawgrass, holing another dramatic birdie putt at No. 17 en route to the first of three consecutive victories in that tournament.
PGATOUR.COM caught up with Koch to celebrate the anniversary of his most famous call and allow him to tell the story behind it.
Stadium Stories: Tiger Woods
PGATOUR.COM: How often do you hear about that call?
GARY KOCH: “I hear about it, surprisingly, quite a bit. Even yesterday, I’m down getting coffee in the hotel lobby at 6:45 in the morning. I’m wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. A guy comes up to me and says, ‘Better than most! Better than most!’ And I said, ‘Yes sir, thank you.’ He goes, ‘I use it as the motto for my pee-wee baseball team that I coach every year.’ You know, that’s kind of cool. That’s kind of nice that people remember it and appreciate it.”
PGATOUR.COM: Is it the call you’re best known for?
KOCH: “Absolutely, no question about it. I’ve had some others that I think have been pretty good, but they’re nowhere near that.”
PGATOUR.COM: Did you often use that phrase to describe shots?
KOCH: “No, not really. I think it was really just in response to Johnny (Miller’s) question to me as the ball reached the top of the hill and started down. Where it came from, I don’t know. I try not to use it anymore (laughs). Every now and then, just to have some fun, I may say, ‘Almost better than most.’”
Tiger Woods’ iconic call on No. 17 with an international flair at THE PLAYERS
PGATOUR.COM: Take us through that call.
KOCH: “The whole scenario was great television. Tiger hit his tee shot up on that upper level. We went away to commercial. I hit the producer, Tommy Roy, on the talk-back and said, ‘You know, I’ve had four or five guys’ balls finish up there earlier in the day. Every single one of them has putted the ball off the green. It comes down that slope, they don’t read enough break, it breaks to the right and the ball ends up in the fringe. Fred Funk in the group in front just four-putted from that same position.’
“So (Roy) came back. We had plenty of time. We really set up the scenario, set up the situation, kind of watched Tiger get to the top of the hill and visualize (the shot) and practice stroke and all that. He hits the putt and initially Johnny (Miller) says, ‘How’s that look?’ The first, ‘Better than most,’ came out. Then as it got going down the hill, it was clear to me the ball was far enough to the left, way more so than any other ball had been all day long. That was when the next, ‘Better than most,’ came out. And then, of course, it went in the hole. ‘Better than most.’
“The great thing to me, if you go back and watch that, no one said a word for probably close to 45 seconds. It was all Tiger’s reaction. And back then, at THE PLAYERS … there weren’t all the corporate hospitality areas at 17. That hillside was absolutely packed with people and they erupted. I was in my tower, which is over behind the 16th green, 17th tee area, so I wasn’t even right at the green. You could just feel … I mean, I was on my feet in my tower, 150 yards away. It was just, as I say when people ask about it, it was a classic Tiger moment.”
Kids call "Better than Most" from Tiger Woods' putt on No. 17 at THE PLAYERS