From Tiger Woods to GMac and Zach, a look back at the Hero’s top moments
November 30, 2021
By Jeff Eisenband , PGATOUR.COM
- November 30, 2021
All-time shots from the Hero World Challenge
The Hero World Challenge is back after a one-year hiatus. Tiger Woods’ annual offseason event returns Thursday with an expanded field of 20 of the world’s best players. This will be the 22nd edition of the tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
The Hero annually gives us one more glimpse at the sport’s biggest names before golf takes its holiday break. By limiting the field to less than two dozen participants, the Hero is all but guaranteed to finish with a star-studded showdown.
The relaxed atmosphere and strong fields have resulted in some memorable moments over the last two decades. Here’s a look at five of the best, from the tournament’s icy beginnings to several Sundays starring the tournament host.
Phil’s Chilly Chip
Play golf in Arizona in January, they said. It will be fun.
During the final round of the inaugural Hero World Challenge in January 2000, hail and rain stormed down on Scottsdale’s Grayhawk Golf Club. Most golfers would see this as a problem. Phil Mickelson saw it as a challenge.
Rather than take out a putter on the 18th hole, Mickelson opted to chip over the hailstones. Of course, because Phil is Phil, he chipped in. It was another magical shot from Mickelson with wedge in hand.
How many times did he practice this during his college days at Arizona State?
The rest of the week was rather forgettable for Mickelson, who at 8 over, finished 11th out of the 12 competitors. Woods also struggled, notching a 10th-place finish at 2 over.
But Tom Lehman stared down the hail and birdied five of his final six holes to edge David Duval by three shots.
Graeme McDowell completes dream year by beating Tiger
In 2009, Graeme McDowell -- still not a household name to most American golf fans -- pushed Jim Furyk to the brink at the Hero World Challenge. The moment was a warm-up for the monster 2010 season McDowell had on the horizon.
He earned his first PGA TOUR win that June in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, outlasting a leaderboard that included Woods, Mickelson and Ernie Els in the top five. At the Ryder Cup, McDowell closed out Hunter Mahan, 3 and 1, in Singles to earn Europe’s clinching point. McDowell also won two other times on the European Tour in 2010.
But perhaps no moment was as sweet for McDowell as Sunday at the Hero World Challenge. Starting four shots back of Woods, McDowell went out in 33 to pull within one. McDowell and Woods traded blows on the back nine before coming to No. 18 tied at 15 under.
With Woods just a few feet away for birdie on 18, McDowell buried a 20-foot birdie putt of his own to force a playoff. Playing 18 again as the 73rd hole, McDowell drilled an even longer birdie putt on a similar line to snatch a win from Tiger’s grasp.
McDowell would establish himself as a stalwart of the Hero World Challenge, winning again in 2012.
Tiger roars again in 2011
Woods had to overcome injuries and personal issues in 2010 and 2011. He went winless in both years, something he had not done since turning pro. By the time the 2011 Hero arrived, it had been more than two years since Woods’ last win.
But he ended his worldwide winless drought with a dramatic finish at Sherwood. Starting Sunday one shot behind Zach Johnson -- perhaps his biggest rival in this event -- Woods grabbed a two-stroke lead after back-to-back birdies on Nos. 10 and 11.
Johnson fought back, however, and after a Woods bogey and two Johnson birdies on the next five holes, Johnson held a one-shot lead through 16.
But Woods, one year after a playoff loss to McDowell, closed with back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18 while Johnson parred both holes. The win was Woods’ fifth and most recent at the Hero World Challenge.
“It feels good,” Woods said. “I’ve been in contention twice this year, which is not very often. … I pulled it off this time.”
Zach Johnson’s hole out
You aren’t supposed to upstage the host. But if you do it, you better make it count.
Johnson and Woods went head-to-head again two years after Woods’ 2011 win over Johnson. Unlike last time, when Woods was trying to end a lengthy winless drought, Woods arrived at his tournament after a season that saw him regain the No. 1 ranking in the world and earn PGA TOUR Player of the Year honors.
Johnson would prevail this time, however, and do so with a remarkable shot.
The arrived on the 72nd hole tied at 13 under. Hitting his second shot from the left rough, Woods found a greenside bunker. Johnson, hitting next from the middle of the fairway, had a clean shot at the pin.
Instead, he came up well short in the water.
“It was just bad,” Johnson said. “Just bad.”
Johnson followed up his abysmal shot with a spectacular one, holing out from the drop zone for par. His wedge took a few bounces, spun back from behind the hole and dropped into the cup.
Woods showed a slight smirk before getting up-and-down for par, narrowly missing his bunker shot for birdie along the way.
Playing 18 again for the first playoff hole, Woods again found the greenside bunker, while a more conservative Johnson hit his approach shot on the far side of the green. Woods failed to get up-and-down this time, and Johnson two-putted for the win.
In addition to his five wins at the Hero World Challenge, Woods also has five runners-up. This was his fifth second-place showing in his event.
Tiger’s Return 65
When Woods teed it up at the 2016 Hero World Classic, he was more than a year removed from his last PGA TOUR start (and his second microdiscectomy). He opened with a 73, the second-worst score of the day. Justin Rose shot a 74 and withdrew after the round, leaving Woods in sole possession of last place.
But Woods flipped the script on Friday, shooting a bogey-free 65 for the third-lowest round of the day. Woods showed at age 40, his game could still compete with the young guns in the field. It was a round that set social media aflame as many wondered if Woods was, indeed, back.
“I wanted to keep that card clean," Woods said. "I don't know what it is about playing and competing, but keeping cards clean, there's something really special and it feels pretty good about doing that.
Perhaps Woods’ shot of the day came on No. 16, when he slammed in a 35-foot par putt to keep that clean sheet intact and bring back his signature fist pump.
Woods shot 70 and 76 the next two days to finish 4 under and in 15th place. Fans would have to wait a little longer to see Woods return to his winning ways. Injuries limited him to just three starts in 2017. He won three times in the following two years, however, including his 15th major and record-tying 82nd PGA TOUR win.