How Billy beat Tiger at the 1998 Genesis Open
Woods is 11-1 in PGA TOUR playoffs; his only loss came at Mayfair's hands
February 13, 2018
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Billy Mayfair delivers in the clutch at the 1998 Nissan Open
Tiger Woods is the host of the Genesis Open, the same event where he made his PGA TOUR debut as a teenager.
He has never been its champion, though.
His 10 starts at Riviera are the most he’s made at any course where he's failed to win. His return to the event after a 12-year hiatus coincides with an inglorious anniversary. The 1998 Genesis Open was the only playoff loss of his PGA TOUR career. It was an upset that allowed its victor, Billy Mayfair, to become the answer to a trivia question in a popular board game.
Tigermania was in full swing back then, but he lost on the first extra hole -- a par-5, no less -- to a player who was nearly a decade older than him but owned half as many TOUR titles. Woods was the reigning PGA TOUR Player of the Year after a 1997 season that included his historic Masters victory, while Mayfair was in a two-year slump after finishing second on the 1995 money list.
Their paths crossed in a playoff after Woods birdied three of the final four holes and Mayfair, playing in the final group, birdied the final hole of regulation.
He used a veteran's guile to defeat the long-hitting phenom. Woods missed the fairway on the first extra hole, while Mayfair laid up and hit an 85-yard wedge shot to 4 feet. Game over.
It was the fourth win of Mayfair’s career. Even if Woods had won, it wouldn’t have changed his record at Riviera. The tournament was held at Valencia Country Club because Riviera was hosting the U.S. Senior Open.
Woods would only win once that year, while Mayfair would add another victory at the Buick Open. It would be his fifth and final PGA TOUR win. He also won the 1995 TOUR Championship and the 1987 U.S. Amateur, but that win over Woods remains the defining moment of his career.
Mayfair, 51, is starting his second season on PGA TOUR Champions. He talked to PGATOUR.COM from this week’s Chubb Classic.
What was the most unique way that you were recognized as the guy who beat Tiger Woods in a playoff?
In Trivial Pursuit, there’s a question, ‘Who’s the only player on the PGA TOUR to beat Tiger Woods in a playoff?’ and my name is on there. I had some people come and tell me that they played the game and the card was in there. I guess I’m kind of known for that more than anything else, which is fine by me, trust me.
Does the trophy have a special place in your home?
All of my wins and my U.S. Amateur trophy are all in the same case and they’re all equally important to me. I think something that is really special to me is the money clip from the tournament. I think about it every day when I pull that out of my pocket. I’ve had it in my pocket pretty much ever since they gave it to me a couple weeks after the tournament. I’ve kept it in there ever since. Twenty years.
How did you find out that you were the only player to beat Tiger Woods in a playoff?
It got to be a big deal when he and Rocco were playing at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. It was a long event, they played (19) extra holes and they had a lot of time to kill so they had to find things to talk about. They showed that I was still the only player. I think I got a lot of attention just for that. It was a great playoff and people still ask me today, ‘Were you rooting for Tiger or for Rocco?’ I say, ‘Who do you think?’ No offense to Rocco, but a streak is a streak and you want to keep that.
What was your thought about starting the playoff on a par-5?
My first thought was to just try to get it to No. 10, the next playoff hole. I figured he had the advantage over me, playing a par-5. I knew he could get home in two. I had gotten it to the bunker in two in regulation, but I didn’t hit nearly as good of a drive in the playoff. I said, if we can get by 18 and get to the par-4, we both have a great chance. Luckily, he missed the green right and I hit a good wedge shot in and he missed his putt and I was able to slam the door.
Your two Rottweilers greeted you on the 18th green after the win?
They walked out on the green with us when we finished. I’m a huge animal rights guy. I love dogs and do a lot of things with them through my charity, so it was a neat little PR thing too. I have three dogs now. It’s a little harder to travel with them now. They’re not little ones, either. They’re bigger ones. They mostly stay home. I have a black lab, a beagle and a female pit bull. They all get along real well.
BILLY MAYFAIR'S PLAYOFF RECORD (2-5)
Lost to Jim Gallagher, Jr., 1990 Greater Milwaukee Open
Lost to Jodie Mudd, 1990 Nabisco Championship
Defeated Mark Calcavecchia and Ted Schulz, 1993 Greater Milwaukee Open
Lost to Vijay Singh, 1995 Phoenix Open
Lost to Greg Norman, 1995 NEC World Series of Golf
Defeated Tiger Woods, 1998 Genesis Open
Lost to Jose Coceres, 2001 WORLDCOM CLASSIC
TIGER WOODS' PLAYOFF RECORD (11-1)
Defeated Davis Love III, 1996 Las Vegas Invitational
Defeated Tom Lehman, 1997 Mercedes Championships
Lost to Billy Mayfair, 1998 Genesis Open
Defeated Miguel Angel Jimenez, 1999 WGC-American Express Championship
Defeated Ernie Els, 2000 Mercedes Championships
Defeated Bob May, 2000 PGA Championship
Defeated Jim Furyk, 2001 WGC-NEC Invitational
Defeated Chris DiMarco, 2005 Masters
Defeated John Daly, 2005 WGC-American Express Championship
Defeated Jose Maria Olazabal and Nathan Green, 2006 Buick Invitational
Defeated Stewart Cink, 2006 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
Defeated Rocco Mediate, 2008 U.S. Open