By Alex Myers
A bad back has dominated any Tiger Woods talk of late, but a "walk-off" performance used to refer to something much different than a WD for TW. Woods' clutch play throughout his career has produced numerous "walk-off" winning putts on the final hole, and nowhere has he pulled that off more than at Bay Hill.
Woods pulled out of this year's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but those memories remain. Let's take a look, um, back.
In 2001, Woods arrived at Bay Hill in a bit of a "slump" despite having won the final three majors the previous season. He was (gasp!) winless in his first five events before arriving at Bay Hill (remember the days he used to play five events before Bay Hill?), but got on a roll that included him capping the Tiger Slam at the Masters a month later.
At Bay Hill, Woods found himself in a tie with Phil Mickelson -- they were the top two players in the world rankings at the time -- on the final hole of regulation and after a wild drive left, he hit an incredible approach shot to about 10 feet. He converted the birdie putt (:43 mark of the video) for a dramatic win, gave a huge fist pump, and celebrated with then caddie Steve Williams. Note: This will be a recurring scenario.
"Only perfect. That's all that putt was," NBC analyst Johnny Miller said. Of course, Woods would win that year's U.S. Open and then miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his left knee. We don't think the injury stemmed from his violent cap throw celebration.
When Woods returned to Arnie's event the following year, he was still looking for proof that he could return to the player he was before the surgery. With Woods tied with Sean O'Hair on the final hole, Miller and Dan Hicks set the stage as if they knew what was going to happen next.
"He's got that beautiful cut shot, that he can aim it at the stands there and work it to the hole. And we know he can make that putt," Miller said. Good call:
"Again! At Bay Hill! On the 72nd hole!" Hicks exlaimed. "That's the way to get back into the winner's circle, isn't it?"
"The guy is absolutely out of this world," Miller added.
This year, Woods is just out of another tournament. He won't be around to author another "walk-off" putt this weekend, but you can bet that won't stop NBC from taking a stroll down memory lane.