Waite vs Tiger: The One That Got Away
He’s now happily competing on the Champions Tour, but Kiwi Grant Waite loves to tell fans about the time he played with Tiger Woods.
It was 16 years ago when Tiger was at his absolute supreme.
Tiger Woods (Credit: Anthony Powter)
He had already captured the US Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots as well as the British Open at St Andrews by another eight shots.
And while he had also won the US PGA as well that year, Woods was desperate to also annex the tournament regarded as one of the other big “opens” of the world – the Canadian Open.
And it seems the only thing standing in his way that day was Grant Waite, with the pair sharing the 54-hole lead and Tiger ready to roar:
“I was playing really well and I was excited to play with him,” says Waite.
“During that period he was winning every tournament he’d played and I thought it was an opportunity to see if I could compete.”
Waite, who was 36 at the time threw birdies at Tiger on holes two and three and briefly held a one-shot lead.
But they arrived on the tee at the par-five 18th with Woods clinging to a one shot lead.
After finding a fairway bunker down the right side, Woods smashed a six-iron from 218 yards over a lake with the ball settling on the back fringe about 18 feet behind the hole.
Waite, who had hit his 5-iron second shot to 25 feet, watched from a few yards away.
“I’ve been in that bunker when it was downwind and you can’t see where he was going,” Waite said.
“I knew the shot he had. I was anticipating the ball coming out towards the middle of the green, which was shorter to carry, plus he had to go over some trees to go at the pin.
“The difficulty of that shot was it was the last hole.”
“The genius of Tiger at the time was he was willing to take on any shot and the consequences didn’t matter. “That’s what separated him from everyone else.”
While Waite two-putted for birdie, he finished one shot behind Woods, who got up and down from the back fringe.
“I sometimes think about it, and I joke that all I needed was one grain of sand between the clubface and the ball,” says Waite.
“And my life would have changed forever.”