How Bob May rattled Tiger at the 2000 US PGAJuly, 2014
At a time when the world’s elite were crumbling in the face of Woods, one man stood up to the challenge at Valhalla. This is his story.
The year was 2000, the setting was Valhalla. In the red (Nike) corner stood Tiger Woods, world No.1, the defending champion and winner of the last two Majors.
In the blue, Bob May, relatively unknown in his own country after spending the last five years in Europe and playing in his first PGA Championship.
The only obvious similarity was that both were from Southern California, with May’s amateur records the focus of Woods growing up.
They had never previously played a round together but, over the course of a Sunday afternoon at Valhalla, they served up one of the greatest duels in Major history.
Tiger was round in 67, May 66.
Both came home in 31 strokes – May’s total of 198 for the last three rounds is the all-time low for any Major – as one birdie followed another.
At the 72nd hole May rolled in a double-breaker from the fringe. Woods followed him in from seven feet.
Three play-off holes later Woods was crowned champion and the Tiger Slam – that’s how dominent he was at the time – was three quarters complete.
For many, though, the real hero was May. He’s how he rattled Tiger.
I don’t think I would have got any more recognition had I won. I am reminded just about every day but that’s great, people like it. “I have never been scared or intimidated by Tiger. I have always respected his golf but I respect his golf more than I fear it.
“If you’re in the right frame of mind all of us on tour can play, it just seemed that he was always in that right frame of mind.
“In 2000 he drove the ball the longest and the straightest so that was phenomenal and I can still remember some of the shots he hit that day.
“He tried to break all the records I had in southern California. We are seven years apart but we had never played together before.
“After the third round I birdied the last hole and Scott Dunlap and I were tied and he bogeyed the last. I was first in, so was last out.
“I didn’t care who I was playing with, I just wanted to get into that final round as I was playing so solidly.
“If I was in a different group the battle that we had never would have happened. I had to keep doing what I was doing but that is easier said than done when it is four or five deep down the 1st hole!
“I watched all his shots; there is so much to learn from another player’s flight going into the green.
“The shots I remember are the tee ball at No.1 and a 2-iron off the fairway to the par-5 10th.
“At the 1st there is a tree down the left, 60 feet tall and 270 yards away, and he hit it right at the tree and it was still climbing.
“My drive finished two yards past the tree, he was 50 yards ahead of mine. The 2-iron was so high and booming and back in 2000 the technology wasn’t what it is today.
“I knew I would be playing a different course as he was so long then so I had to tell myself to keep playing the same game that had just given me two 66s.
“There’s not one shot which I think I wish I could have that over. Mr Venturi said I pulled the putt at the 15th but I hit it where I wanted and, looking at the tape, Olazabal’s ball dove off and missed on the low side. My ball didn’t break.
“We talked quite a bit up to the 10th. We both birdied that and I then birdied 11, so it was game on. We acknowledged each other but were too focused to chat.
“I didn’t surprise myself, I knew I had it in me. So it was more satisfying to get it out when I needed it.
“Some people do have problems with Tiger, I’m on the ‘don’t’ side. He has always been very courteous and everything he does is under such a microscope.
“He loves to pull practical jokes and goof around with friends and in the locker room. I know Tiger reasonably well now.
“I don’t see him as much as I used to, I used to see him in the gym when he came to Vegas but not much any more.
“We have never really talked about the round, I would love to see what he thought. He’s in a hard position as he can’t really bring it up as he won.
“I don’t think I would have got any more recognition had I won. I am reminded just about every day but that’s great, people like it. I’ve spent last two days talking about it with the Golf Channel; we are entertainers, you have to share.”
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