The Chip - Lucky Yet Unbelievable


It will be a long time before they finally pipe down about the events of Sunday at Augusta. And it will be decades before they finally quit talking about the one little chip shot that Tiger Woods stroked on No. 16.
Yes, it was, in a way, lucky. Lucky that it finally toppled in for a deuce. But there was nothing at all lucky about the way the ball lurched up, checked up just before it made a 90-degree turn and then started the long, agonizing roll towards the cup. It would have been a fabulous shot if it had just hung on the lip of the cup. But to have it drop in ' that was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Call the shot 95 percent excellence and five percent luck.
Tiger himself agreed that there was a measure of good fortune thrown in. I just tried to not necessarily try to chip it in - I wasn't thinking about that, he said. I was just trying to throw the ball up there on the hill and let it feed down there and hopefully have a makeable putt.
He did it so masterfully, of course, that the darn thing went ahead and dropped into the hole.
I remember Lanny Wadkins comment just a second or two before Woods struck the shot. Wadkins opined that Tiger could hit a creditable chip and still not be as close to the pin as Chris DiMarco was -15 feet. And its true. I was fully expecting at least two putts from Woods before he had finally tidied up. The shot was just so difficult.
It was, I believe, more difficult than Trevor Immelmans hole-in-one that preceded it by less than 30 minutes. After all, you basically had to hit the ball straight at the flag to ace the hole, then watch it roll back to the hole on the severely sloped green. The ace was a difficult shot, let me say that straight up. But an ace could definitely be had on the hole.
But Tiger's shot - first, he was forced to chop down on the ball, which was up against the collar of the rough. Woods had to, No. 1, pick out a proper line; No. 2, get the club cleanly on the ball, neither skulling it nor fatting it; No. 3, hit the ball exactly on the line he had chosen; No. 4, hit it at precisely the distance necessary before it made the wide, sweeping roll into the cup. And he had to do this while dealing with pressure of the most extreme kind.
I watched the shot, watched the ball roll and twist, saw the Nike swoosh teeter momentarily, for a full two seconds. But I never did believe it had finished moving. The ball always appeared to be hanging so precariously,that it eventually would topple on in. But was it hung up on a spike mark? Would it take the last quarter-roll? An eternity passed in those two seconds, then the ball tumbled into the hole. The roar was heard from Toronto to Timbuktu.
Somehow an earthquake happened, and it fell into the hole, said Tiger.
There was a very real element of failure in hitting the shot. Woods was acutely aware of this possibility as he lined up for the chip. But he executed it ' perfectly, as it turns out.
The biggest danger, I thought, was fatting it and getting too cute with it, he remarked. I said, If anything, just blow it up on the hill. It will come back down, just as long as I'm inside Chris. If I can get inside Chris, even if Chris makes it, I can still make my putt to be tied for the lead.
You know, if I'm outside Chris, I make my bogey, all of a sudden he feels like he's got a free run at it.
OK, you may say, the shot has been made before. Davis Love made a similar chip from a similar place a couple of years ago. But it did not have the same gravity as this one. Davis did not have the white-hot glare of being in the lead at the Masters, trying to shake off a bulldog who would not let go of the pants leg. He did not have the certain knowledge that, if he did not hit the shot precisely, the green jacket could go drifting, drifting away. Not to make light of a brilliant shot by Love, but it becomes exponentially tougher when you place the dire importance on it that Woods had.
All of a sudden, it looked pretty good, and all of a sudden it looked like really good, Tiger said. And it looked like, How could it not go in, and how did it not go in? And all of a sudden it went in, so it was pretty sweet.
Woods had never practiced the shot. No - never, ever, ever. No, you're not supposed to hit the ball over there, he said with a grin.
How hard do you hit it? At what angle? It was strictly fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants stuff. But the fact that it stopped on the lip of the cup, then fell in, was evidence that it was a great shot. It would have been a good shot if it had just stayed on the green. It would have been a great shot if it had died just 10 feet away. It was a near-impossible shot when, with the entire world watching, it fell into the hole from 30 feet away, taking about 45 feet to slowly make its way.
To be frank, Tiger was not always able to pull off the miracles this week. He tried something similar during the first round on No. 13 and the ball took a left turn and picked up speed, rolling, rolling until it plunked into the creek.
And the shot was almost trumped by another, later brilliant chip. If DiMarcos chip at No. 18 in regulation had gone into the hole ' it actually hit the cup and continued on for two feet ' we wouldnt be dissecting Woods shot in near the detail. We would have been exclaiming over the impossible shot of DiMarco. But it didnt go down. So-o-o just another game effort.
I have a feeling we just witnessed a gem that they will be talking about for all time, a shot to place alongside Tom Watsons chip-in at the 82 Open. The name of the tournament is appropriate ' the Masters. What we saw was masterful indeed.
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