As good as golf gets

2000 PGA Championship: Tiger Woods beats Bob May in three-hole playoff

Originally Published: December 14, 2009
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Tiger WoodsAP Photo/Ed Reinke

You've heard it a million times: Tiger Woods has never come from behind on Sunday to win a major.

It's not true.

Technically, perhaps. But Woods' 2000 PGA Championship victory absolutely was a comeback.

Tiger began the final day at Valhalla Golf Club 1 shot ahead of someone named Bob May. Nobody expected much drama. Woods was bidding to win his third major of the year, having trampled the field at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open and St. Andrews in the British Open. His Sunday playing partner and punching bag was a 31-year-old journeyman with zero PGA Tour victories.

But after an early May birdie and a Woods bogey, the leaderboard and player roles were reversed for much of that steamy August duel in the Kentucky bluegrass. Woods was forced into rally mode, put under constant pressure by a guy nobody had ever heard of who was playing the round of his life.

May spent most of the afternoon hitting first, and hitting flawlessly. It was continually up to Woods to answer, with almost no room for error. He rose to every occasion, even as the tension mounted and the disbelief grew that Bob May -- Bob May? -- might be the guy to take down Woods at the height of his powers.

The roars kept echoing through the valley that envelops Valhalla's back nine as the two pushed each other to greatness -- one fearless iron shot after another, one dramatic putt after another.

Woods had to shoot 7 under par over the last 12 holes just to force a three-hole playoff. By the time the two concluded 72 holes, they were 5 shots clear of the field and tied at 18 under, which remains tied (with Woods' 2006 PGA win at Medinah) for the record low score in relation to par.

On the first playoff hole, Woods walked briskly behind a 20-foot birdie putt, pointing at it as the ball disappeared into the cup. Two pars followed, and Woods was able to wrap his sculpted arms around the Wanamaker Trophy.

May shot a Sunday 66 -- probably the greatest final round anyone has played alongside Woods in a major -- and still it wasn't good enough. Tiger would not allow it to be good enough.

"It was an incredible battle," Woods said afterward. "We never backed off. Birdie for birdie, shot for shot, that's as good as it gets."
--Pat Forde