King of the Hills: Tiger Woods & the 2007 PGA Championship
Tiger Woods returned to Tulsa for the 2007 PGA Championship having played at Southern Hills twice before. And both trips were memorable, but for different reasons.
Tiger got his first look at Southern Hills during the 1996 Tour Championship. He turned pro on August 28, 1996 and amazingly vaulted his way into the top-30 money winners in less than two months. He would next play Southern Hills at the 2001 U.S. Open on the tail end of the “Tiger Slam”. While neither tournament ended in victories for Tiger, important lessons were learned.
Due to his past experiences, Tiger was able to develop a special game plan for playing Southern Hills. At the 2007 PGA Championship, Tiger executed his game plan to perfection. Strategically mapping his way around the golf course, he avoided fairway bunkers, played safely into the smallish greens, and made key putts to win by two over Woody Austin.
“If you would have asked me if, 12 years into my career, I would have this many wins and this many majors, No Way!” Tiger shared after his win. “When you start your career, 18 is a long way away. And even though I am at 13, it’s still a long way away.”
Tiger got off to a fast start in round one of the 89th PGA Championship, going 3-under through six holes. Southern Hills struck back, however, and four closing bogeys resulted in a round of one-over par 71. Local favorite, John Daly, kept the fans entertained with a 3-under 67, and trailed first-round leader, Graeme Storm, by two.
“It’s awesome. It’s been a good day for my fans and me,” said Daly. “They haven’t seen a good round in a while. Even the Sooner and Cowboy fans are out here. It’s cool.”
Seven former Oklahoma University or Oklahoma State University golfers were in the field, including Southern Hills member Bo Van Pelt. OU’s Todd Hamilton, the 2004 Open Championship winner, lead the way with a 73.
After the opening round, Tiger shared that he was hitting the ball better than he scored. He got the scoring part right in round two as he birdied the opening hole and never looked back. Seven birdies and one bogey later, Tiger stood on the 18th green with a chance to become the first player to shoot 62 in a major championship. The thousands of spectators in attendance and millions watching around the world thought Tiger had the record, but somehow, his putt did a complete 360 and spun out. A tap-in for 63 tied the course record set by Raymond Floyd at the 1982 PGA Championship and gave Tiger a two-shot lead over Scott Verplank, whose 66 was overshadowed by Wood’s heroics.
“I guess a 62 ½ is all right,” Tiger said after his round. “I hit a good putt. And I thought I made it. It would have been nice to have gotten a record and a three shot lead going into the weekend.”
Saturday’s third round did not provide as much excitement as a day earlier. The top five leaders all shot one-under-par rounds of 69. Verplank, playing in the final group with Woods, fell seven shots back with a 74. The key hole was No. 12, where Tiger made birdie and Verplank made double bogey. Tiger ended the day with a three-shot lead over Trinidad & Tobago native, Stephen Ames. Woody Austin was lurking four shots behind.
Tiger arrived at the first tee on Sunday in his familiar red shirt and a 12-0 record when leading going into the final round of a major. Five hours later, in temperatures above 100 degrees, that streak became 13-0. Ames faded early, while Ernie Els applied some pressure with a 32 on the front. But Tiger responded with a curly 20-footer for birdie on 8, punctuated with a powerful fist pump. Things got interesting again on the back nine, when Woody Austin birdied holes 11-14, to climb within one of Woods.
Tiger responded again with a crucial birdie on 15 and then blasted a powerful drive, followed by a twirl of the club, on 16. Three pars later, Tiger had won his 13th major championship by two over Austin. Els was third, another shot back. Arron Oberholser finished tied for 4th.
“He knows he’s going to win,” said Oberholser of Tiger. “The scary thing is that maybe he knows that you know he’s going to win.”
This was Tiger's first major championship victory as a father. His daughter, Sam Alexis Woods, was born two months earlier on June 18, 2007. To top it off, his wife, Elin, was holding Sam near the 18th green as Tiger holed the final putt. Sam’s attire? Red, of course.