Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25, 1996: Undeniable

PORTLAND, Ore. - Who is Steve Scott?

No, we're not playing Jeopardy. We're simply posing a question. Who is Steve Scott? He's the golfer who came close to dethroning Tiger Woods at the U.S. Amateur Championship, the man who came ever so close to stopping Woods' run at a third straight Amateur championship.

Through 18 holes on August 25, 1996, Scott was five holes up on Woods. Woods was scuffling, nothing was going right for him. It seemed like his run at history was going to get derailed. He would fail where so many great golfers before him had, coming short in his quest to be the first man to win three straight Amateur titles.

But then he became Tiger Woods, the fearsome golfer. He showed the golf world what the future held. In the second 18 holes of the day at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course, Woods roared back against Scott, making the putts that had been missing in the morning, showing the tenacity that had already, at age 18, given him the reputation as a lethal competitor.

Woods never held the lead in the 1996 U.S. Amateur until the final hole, when he tapped in a two-foot par putt on the second hole of the playoff, the 38th hole of the day, to clinch the championship. He had done what nobody had done before him, something none of the great amateur champions of golf's early days could do.

Less than a month later, Woods was no longer an amateur. He was playing on the PGA tour, beginning his meteoric rise up the golf rankings. He won two events in his first three months on tour, and he won the Masters by 12 shots in his first Major as a professional. But that August in Oregon, he was just a college kid at Stanford who needed 38 holes to beat somebody named Steve Scott.

So who is Steve Scott? He's the guy who, after playing 38 of the best holes of golf of his life, could only look at Tiger Woods and say "I don't know how I stayed with you that long."

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