The last time Tiger Woods played a professional golf event in Japan, he lost in a very un-Tiger-like manner.
Woods yielded a three-shot lead on the final day with six holes to play and eventually lost in a playoff to Ireland’s Padraig Harrington at the 2006 Dunlop Phoenix at Phoenix Golf Club on Nov. 17, 2006 in Miyazaki.
On Wednesday, Woods announced he would be returning to play in Japan this fall in what will be the PGA Tour’s first official event ever in that country.
He’s likely hoping for a better finish this time.
Ranked No. 1 at the time, Woods was denied a three-peat in the 2006 Dunlop Phoenix by Harrington. The Irishman Harrington won the Japan Tour Event with a birdie at the second playoff hole.
“I was struggling all day with my swing,” said Woods after the loss. “It wasn’t just my tee shots, it was everything. I was just trying to hang in there. I gave myself a chance to win and that’s a nice positive.”
Harrington won it despite firing his second shot on the second playoff hole – the par-5 18th – through a gap between the split trunks of a stunted pine tree after hooking his tee shot left.
Harrington’s shot bounced off the base of the tree gap, sailed high and traveled another 130 yards toward the hole. Harrington’s pitch then landed within two feet to set up a birdie. Woods missed a 12-footer before Harrington won it with a tap-in.
It was only Woods’ second official playoff loss in 16 tries. Harrington would play the back nine in 4 under and birdie both playoff holes. Harrington and Woods both shot 67 in the final round to finish at 9-under-par 271, one shot ahead of Japan’s Keiichiro Fukabori.
Harrington kept a level head after beating Woods, who was in his prime at the time, head-to-head in extra holes.
“The fact that I’ve beaten Tiger in a playoff makes me no different a golfer than when I came here this week,” said Harrington. “It may change what people think about me, but in my own eyes I’m the same golfer.”
Harrington said he never gave up hope of winning.
“Tiger had gone into that ‘I’m three ahead, play steady golf’ mode. I knew I had an opportunity if I could make some birdies.”
Harrington tied it on 16. Woods three-putted and bogeyed the par-4 hole after Harrington had drained a birdie from 20 feet.
“That was a poor putt. I pulled it back a little shut and blocked it,” Woods said.