Monday, December 9

Zach Steals One From Tiger

GOOD SHOT, BAD SHOT. BAD SHOT, GOOD SHOT. Bad shot, bad shot. I've experienced it all, and maybe you have, too. That's golf.

However, for me (and probably for you) those dramatic reversals don't occur in front of hundreds of spectators and on national television. They don't happen in a head-to-head duel with Tiger Woods. (Unless we're dreaming.)

Standing in the middle of the 18th fairway at Sherwood Country Club in Southern California, Zach Johnson had a green-light special, as Johnny Miller might call it. The feisty Iowan and Masters champion had caught Woods with a birdie at the par-3 17th hole. Tiger drove left at the final hole, tried to curve his second shot around trouble, and ended up in a bunker to the right of the green.

Edge to Johnson, who was stuffing his short irons. Just get the approach shot on the lower tier of the 18th green and he'd have a birdie putt that, if he made it, would likely steal the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge from the host.

That's when Zach clanked an iron shot that he'll never forget. He turned into me. (As Zach later said, he had an awkward yardage and didn't commit to the swing.)

Johnson's ball flew right and short. Into the hazard. It looked like a half shank. An ugly thing. All Zach could do was shake his head.

Mercifully, redemption for Zach Johnson could not have come any quicker.

It came moments later on his next shot, a 58-yard wedge from the drop area. The video shows what happened. The crowd reaction also says it all. Zach holed the shot for a par. All Tiger could do was grin and shake his head.

Woods gamely got up and down from the deep bunker to force a playoff, but he then lipped out a 3-foot par putt on the first playoff hole. It was over.

I'm glad I tuned in at the end. That was a crazy finish. Sometimes the silly season delivers.

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