How an amateur’s favor revealed the’ cold-blooded’ winner in Tiger Woods

Steve Scott handed Woods the 1996 US amateur title with a sporting gesture and is in awe of his old contenders resurgence

Steve Scott understands Tiger Woods’s propensity for heroics to a greater degree than most. It has been 23 years since he finished runner-up as Woods became the first player to win the US Amateur Championship three times, in his final event before turning professional. And yet, even Scott seemed on with disbelief as Timbers won his 15 th major at Augusta National last month.

” If that was anyone else, you would think it impossible to accomplish what he did ,” Scott says.” He is such a special golfer that nothing he does should amaze me because I’ve seen it first hand. But this was improbable; not just the physical issues with his back but the fact he had reached the depths of mental anguish .”

Scott’s joust with Timbers- the former was five up midway through a 36 -hole match- would be striking enough without a single moment which altered the course of history. On the 34 th hole, and with Scott two up, Woods forgot to replace his marker as it had been moved from the line of his opponent’s putt. Scott spoke up, pointing out Woods’s aberration before he played a putt that would have cost him a successful title defence. Timbers subsequently overturned the match, ultimately lifting the trophy after two extra pits. Timbers never recognise Scott’s crucial intervention.

” In all fairness he wasn’t wired that style ,” Scott says.” He wasn’t wired to thank his foes. I think in this stage of Tiger he is more of a person, more appreciative and respectful. He recognise things where in the past, as his father put it, he was a cold-blooded assassin on the course. He wasn’t wired to be thankful or grateful; he was just wired to win .”

Within a year of that victory at Pumpkin Ridge Woods was the Masters champion. Scott has not spent a second regretting the assistance he gave. Quite the opposite.” I could easily have forgotten, as well, but I’m 100% glad I didn’t ,” he says.” People would have said I did it on purpose. That “wouldve been” bad for golf, to have the US Amateur end on a technicality.

” In other sports you are trying to get away with as much as you can until you get caught and golf is the opposite. I’m proud of what I did. He won it with his clubs. That’s the way history was meant to go down.

” I did almost everything I maybe could to win and, if it was stroke play, I would have. He flicks the switch faster than anybody I “ve ever seen”. If you are five up after 18 of a 36 -hole match and someone tells you that you’ll shoot two under par and not win? You’d call them a liar. He just did what he continued to do for his whole career .”

Scott , now 41, turned professional as the world’s top ranked amateur but constructed only a handful of PGA Tour starts as Woods’s starring rose. Scott’s tournament domain was typically lower grade tours, before he became a club professional.

He made a rare PGA Tour appearance at the recent Wells Fargo event in Charlotte, where he shook his head at the sight of Rory McIlroy use a wedge for approaches to holes where he had needed a four iron. Scott had earlier fallen short in his attempt to qualify for this week’s US PGA Championship.

Steve Scott reacts after missing a putt at the 1996 US Amateur Championship. Photograph: JD Cuban/ Getty Images

Scott is now the head professional of the Outpost Club- which has 800 members and stages events globally- and the founder of the Silver Club Golfing Society, which does likewise for low disability players.

Scott is perfectly content with all his life and golf have delivered. But would the tale be of fame and luck had he upset Timbers?” In another athletic it might be different ,” he says.” If I was a prospect in baseball or football I might have signed a multimillion-dollar contract having been at the top of the sport as an amateur. Golf is such an individual game. I might have played in a few more events but I don’t think things would have been all that different.

” Golf changed a lot. I was never the longest hitter. Driving distances changed, the Tiger effect entailed the athletes became better. People learning the game could swing as hard as they wanted to and not miss the club face because of the style drivers changed.

” When we playing in 1996 all the driver heads were small; if you sway hard and didn’t catch the ball right, you would miss fairways. I genuinely didn’t learn to play golf sway as hard as I could. All the kids now, they’ve grown up with a big-headed driver and solid-core golf balls, so they have learned a different game. The timing of equipment alters wasn’t in my prefer .”

Photographs of Scott’s meeting with Timbers adorn walls of his North Carolina home. In his mind there will always be 1996.

” It’s a moment in time that was very special ,” he says.” Tiger Woods will go down, probably, as the greatest golfer. He might own every record there is. For me to be linked to somebody at that level, to be able to tell my kids and grandkids about one of the greatest matches he played, his final amateur match? That’s pretty cool .”

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