Recalling an incredible almost-comeback against Tiger Woods at Western Amateur

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Recalling an incredible almost-comeback against Tiger Woods at Western Amateur

Amateur

Recalling an incredible almost-comeback against Tiger Woods at Western Amateur

It doesn’t need to be a U.S. Amateur final for Tiger Woods to be a part of a stunning and dramatic match.

His comebacks at that event are legendary, with Woods’ bouts in the 1994 final (against Trip Kuehne) and the ’96 title fight (Steve Scott) the stuff of lore. But a match that flies under the radar is a tremendous back-and-forth he survived on his way to winning the 1994 Western Amateur.

Golfweek caught up recently with Chris Tidland, a standout at Oklahoma State from 1991-95, and he offered up what he recalled from his Western Amateur quarterfinal match with Woods that year.

How good was it? Well…

“I remember everything,” Tidland said, smiling, “and I remember I lost at the end.”

Yes he did, but it remains a match worth remembering.

Tidland was actually four down to Woods with six to play in regulation in that quarterfinal at Point O’Woods Golf and Country Club in Benton Harbor, Mich., and then got hot. So in the zone he was, Tidland didn’t exactly know what he was doing: He birdied his final six holes of regulation and didn’t believe it when teammates told him afterward.

It was an incredible comeback on Woods, punctuated by Tidland draining a long birdie putt of some 40 feet from the fringe at the 18th to force a playoff.

He did so in front of a partisan crowd – decidedly pro-Tiger aside from teammate Kris Cox and incoming Oklahoma State freshman Bo Van Pelt.

“Those two were the only two rooting for me,” Tidland said. “And then there was it felt like 10,000 people at the time, but it was probably a few hundred, they were all rooting for him.”

The extra-holes session ensued, with Woods making a mess of the first playoff hole and finding himself some 30-35 feet from the cup for par.

Meanwhile, Tidland was just inside Woods for birdie.

“I remember thinking, and you’re never supposed to do this in match play, ‘I might have two putts to beat him,’” Tidland said. “I was nervous, thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can two-putt right now, I’m so scared.’ “

With Woods, though, you never assume. The phenom drained the long putt, snapping Tidland back to reality. His smooth path to victory was no more, he two-putted and the match moved on.

The very next hole, Woods buried a 20-foot eagle putt to win the match.

The pair grew up together playing junior golf, so the shocked Tidland wasn’t truly surprised at the display deep down. Both essentially shot 63 in regulation on that day and have talked about the match since with a sense of awe.

And a bit of ribbing from Woods.

“He said, ‘You played the best round of your life and I still beat you,’ ” Tidland said. “Which is true.”

Tidland has an ace in the pocket, though. He was a key starter on the 1995 Oklahoma State team that beat Woods’ Stanford squad in a playoff to capture the NCAA Championship.

The 45-year-old said he tries to bring that one up as much as possible when he sees Woods, as it’s essentially the only time he’s beaten him in his life. He has at times joked with Woods if he wants a copy of the book (entitled The Last Putt: Two Teams, One Dream, and a Freshman Named Tiger) chronicling that title run signed by Tidland and the others from that Oklahoma State squad.

Woods’ response?

“Usually stuff you can’t print,” Tidland said, smiling.

Tidland noted Woods is a good sport about it all but will also bring up all the times he beat him. It includes that ’94 Western Amateur fight.

Tidland is still a pro golfer. He’s won twice on the Web.com Tour and had three full seasons on the PGA Tour. Years of surgeries and injuries have sidelined him, but he’s back this season playing on the Web.com Tour with conditional status and competing in Adams Tour events.

If he could play like he did that day against Woods, that could be helpful going forward. When describing that day, it boils down simply.

“It was just high-quality golf,” Tidland said.

And a battle that shouldn’t be forgotten.

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