Ryan Armour needed nearly two decades in professional golf to notch his first PGA Tour win, but he got the job done Sunday at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
The 41-year-old is certainly a journeyman in golf, but lest anyone forget, he once had fellow 41-year-old Tiger Woods on the ropes.
The pair squared off in the final at the 1993 U.S. Junior Amateur, played at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore., with Woods looking to capture his third straight junior title. Armour came in determined not to fall prey to what had happened the year before.
In the quarterfinals of the ’92 Junior, Woods and Armour teed off. The Cypress, Calif., phenom intimidated the Silver Lake, Ohio, kid and walloped him, 8 and 6.
The follow-up was indeed the change from that Armour had craved … for a while.
Then 17 years old, Armour was all square in the final match with Woods with four to play. The Ohio kid proceeded to drain a 40-footer for birdie at the 15th to take a 1-up lead, and when Woods shockingly missed a 4-footer for par at the next, Armour was dormie-2.
As Sports Illustrated reported at the time, Armour had a plan to finish things out: “I thought, ‘Two pars and the national title is yours.’ ”
If you’re sensing this is where the tale might’ve turned … good instincts.
Woods would hit one to eight feet at 17 and roll in the putt for a birdie to win the hole. He then walloped a drive over 300 yards at the closing par 5 and grew even more determined when Armour pulled out an iron in a clear attempt to play for par.
As it would go, Woods missed the green but gave himself a 10-footer for birdie to win the hole and send the match to a playoff. Of course, he jarred it.
A ho-hum clutch birdie-birdie stretch when he absolutely needed it.
(Side note: Here are highlights of Woods in that match.)
Stunned by the comeback, Armour predictably made bogey on the first extra hole and could only watch as Woods sank a four-footer for par to take the title in 19 holes.
Woods would, at the time, call it “the most amazing comeback of my career.” But, he’s certainly authored several impressive challengers since.
What was it like for Armour, though? Despite being just 17 at the time, Armour may’ve verbalized what a devastating loss to Woods felt like as good as anyone.
“The biggest heartbreak I’ve ever experienced,” he said after that match. “It was mine, I had it in my hands, but he was teasing me. It was like he was following a script. I don’t think many people could have done what Tiger did, professional, amateur, junior amateur, whatever. That’s why he’s the best.”
Nearly a quarter-century later, Armour is likely now experiencing the greatest triumph of his career. Maybe he didn’t take down Woods, but Armour can always say he had him on the ropes.
Oh, and now he can add he’s a PGA Tour winner.