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

Steve Scott handed Woods the 1996 US amateur title with a sport gesture and is in awe of his old challengers 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 Woods 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 astonish 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 Woods- 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 pit, and with Scott two up, Timbers 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. Woods subsequently overturned the match, finally lifting the trophy after two extra pits. Timbers never recognise Scott’s crucial intervention.

” In all fairness he wasn’t wired that route ,” Scott says.” He wasn’t wired to thank his opponents. I think in this stage of Tiger he is more of a person, more appreciative and respectful. He acknowledges 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 expended 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 would have 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 switching faster than anybody I have ever seen. If “youre ever” 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 induced merely a handful of PGA Tour starts as Woods’s star soared. 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 utilizing a wedge for approaches to pits 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 handicap 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 sport 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 altered, the Tiger effect meant the athletes became better. People learning video games could sway as hard as they wanted to and not miss the club face because of the route drivers changed.

” When we played in 1996 all the driver heads were small; if you swung hard and didn’t catch the ball right, you would miss fairways. I really 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 changes wasn’t in my prefer .”

Photographs of Scott’s meeting with Timbers adorn walls of his North Carolina home. In his intellect 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 children and grandkids about one of the greatest matches he played, his final amateur match? That’s pretty cool .”

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