By John Strege
The Tiger Woods Nostalgia Tour opens today in Akron, Ohio, site of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament, we note wistfully, he has won eight times.
There was a time that Woods, in pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors, forced us to look ahead. These days, we are left looking back.
This brings us to the prestigious Western Amateur, now underway in Chicago. The Western Amateur has a gilded history, its winners including Francis Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson and, yes, Tiger Woods.
An 18-year-old Tiger Woods (Getty Images photo)
Tiger’s victory in the Western Amateur in 1994, when he was 18, included what has to rank among the best matches in the history of this tournament that began in 1899.
In a quarterfinal match with Chris Tidland, Woods opened a 4-up lead with six holes remaining. Tidland birdied each of the last six holes (including a chip-in from 60 feet at the 18th), which required that Woods birdie two of the last six just to take the match to extra holes.
On the second extra hole, Tidland made another birdie, his seventh in eight holes, while Woods faced a 20-foot downhill putt for eagle. Woods, as he was wont to do in those days, holed the eagle putt to win the match on the 38th hole.
An aside to that Western Amateur:
Woods and his father, Earl, caught in Chicago traffic, missed their flight home after the final match, requiring that they add their names to the standby list for a later flight. They were mistakenly given boarding passes to the later flight, only to be asked to surrender them to the passengers for whom they were intended. They were then moved to the top of the standby list and made the flight home.
Had they not made that flight, Woods would have missed the U.S. Amateur qualifier the next day. Instead, he was able to play, qualified and the following month won the U.S. Amateur at the TPC Sawgrass.
The rest, as they say, is history, back when Woods routinely was making it.