Hal Sutton vs Tiger Woods: Be the Right Club Today Still Resonates at Sawgrass
Just like the wild screams of a crowd gone berserk at the 1986 Masters still echo "Jack! Jack! Jack!" through the trees at Augusta, so the words of a determined Hal Sutton still reverberate along the 18th at Sawgrass.
It was the 2000 Players Championship and we were about to witness one of those electric moments in golf that will forever resonate at Sawgrass and in the minds of golf fans everywhere.
The 18th at the 2000 Players Championship was lined with throngs of thousands who'd followed the magical final pairing, two very determined golfers, one Tiger Woods at the very height of his career, and an older now Hal Sutton at 41.
When Sutton had originally emerged on Tour, he was heralded as "the next Jack Nicklaus" .
Indeed, in the 80s, at the age of 25, he had already beaten the Golden Bear head-to-head at the TPC and also won the PGA against Jack.
Sutton's career then materialized, but not along the "next Jack Nicklaus" lines as many predicted.
Fast forward now to the year 2000, and we find Sutton has re-ignited his winning ways, and in his trademark outspoken fashion has even been talking about how too many players are intimidated by Tiger Woods.
He says he isn't.
And to prove his point, he beats Woods in head-to-head competition in February at the Nissan Open in L.A., shooting 69-67 to Woods's 68-70.
And now here he was again, holding the lead at Sawgrass on Sunday, over his pairing, the guy who really was becoming "the next Jack Nicklaus" and wanted to go beyond that, a young Tiger Woods.
On the 11th hole, Sutton ran in a sweeping 25-footer for birdie to stretch his lead to three strokes over Tiger, just before a colossal thunderstorm delayed the conclusion of the final round until Monday.
Woods started Monday with a three-putt at the 12th hole to drop to four shots behind Sutton.
But Woods birdied the 13th and scored an eagle at the par-5 16th to move to within a stroke heading to the 17th with it's notorious island green.
Both men dealt with the 17th in par, so they came to the 440-yard par-4 18th with Tiger one shot down.
After Tiger missed the green with his approach, Sutton launched a six-iron from 179 yards with a sweet, tight little swing and the kind of perfect earth-thumping sound that frequently produces an absurdly accurate shot.
After having kept his nose to the grindstone all week, Sutton raised his head to see the small white dot of victory heading at the pin, and exclaimed out, as if the ball flight needed any additional encouragement:
"Be the right club today!"
Everyone present and watching anywhere felt the same bolt of electricity he was feeling, and then, thwap, the ball dropped eight feet from the pin.
Hal Sutton had come back to lock up another Player's Championship, and in a dramatic way, punctuate all the statements he'd been making about not being intimidated by Tiger Woods.
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