Welcome back to the Tiger Woods YouTube Project, where we’re in our 18th episode — but we’ve only reached 2001. Good news, right?! It means we’ve got plenty more in the tank. The number 18 is good in golf, though 17 would have been more relevant for today’s subject matter. Either way, we’re on track for 36 total before long. Enjoy!
Here at the TWYP, we like to dive deep on the mainstream Tiger videos, like his juggling commercial or the interview with Curtis Strange, but we mostly stick to videos you likely never saw or already forgot about, like Woods’ appearance on Larry King or this interview with his high school teammates. But this week we’re going full mainstream with one of the most-viewed shots in the history of golf, period. It’s a transcendent call on the broadcast for a transcendent player on what is arguably the most famous golf hole in the world.
Tiger Woods YouTube Project, Chapter 18: Better than Most
RELATED: Chapter 17 — Tiger Woods vs. Bob May
This week, I’ve enlisted the help of D.J. Piehowski, one of the five “fanalysts” who comprise No Laying Up. In addition to being a pioneer in the golf content game, D.J.’s credentials for inclusion here include his status as a resident of Greater Jacksonville. I was hoping this would inspire some extra local insight.
Your job, dear reader, is to watch this Tiger Woods video one more time — even though it’s likely already seared in your mind — and then read Piehowski’s fantastic analysis. There’s even a bonus appearance from one of the stars of NLU’s Strapped series, Neil Schuster. First, the video:
Here’s where I turn it over to D.J., who will sneak in references to the Matrix, Seve Ballesteros’ visor, Westworld, witness protection and more. Enjoy!
D.J. Piehowski, No Laying Up (@djpie): I know the acclaimed “Tiger Woods YouTube Project” has brought forth a number of rarely-seen, illuminating moments from the life and times of the most famous person to ever regularly hit a golf ball. And that’s great.
(Editor’s note: He wrote this, not me, I promise. But I would have to agree.)
You may be rolling your eyes today at Dylan’s seemingly-uninspired inclusion of such a well-known and well-worn moment as “Better than Most.”
But today, live from Jacksonville, Florida, I’d like to proclaim with “DUUUUUVALLLLLL”-level volume that “Better than Most” is not only the most obvious inclusion for this project, it might be the most YouTube pick of them all.
I’m 32 years old and I’m a lifelong golf fan. I can remember watching an astronomical amount of golf shots from countless tournaments on TV the past 15 years. And thanks to YouTube, I also have context on shots and events that happened well before I was born. The 1986 Masters happened 20 months before I existed, but all the details, down to Seve Ballesteros’ weird homemade Nike visor, have been incepted into my memory as if I watched it the day it happened. Golf YouTube is The Matrix and I now know kung-fu.
But somewhere in the middle, there’s a strange inflection point where YouTube and my memory melt together. And there is no better example for me – and, I would guess, the rest of my generation – than “Better than Most.”
You see, I know every frame of this shot but I genuinely have no idea if I actually watched the moment live on TV. Maybe I did? Or maybe, as a 13-year-old on a Midwestern Saturday afternoon (Ed. note: D.J. was not always a son of Jacksonville) I was doing literally anything else. But the point is that I have now watched the shot on repeat so many times that it’s impossible to tell.
(Is this good or bad? I have no idea; feel free to watch “Westworld” or “Devs” if you’d like to unpack that further.)
My comprehensive understanding of Woods’ career probably includes more of this digital patchwork than I’d care to admit. I swear to you, I remember exactly where I was when I saw the “Mack Daddy Santa” tweet. But the Tiger Slam, driver-6-iron at the Canadian Open, the shot in the dark at Firestone – they’re all different. I can tell you everything about those moments (and countless others!), but I can’t tell you which ones I actually watched.
“Better than Most” was such a laboratory-perfect sports moment that it feels like it was made for the purposes of recruiting new golf fans like me. It has the perfect star, the perfect setting and the perfect script. Of all my golf YouTube revisits, the only thing I’m certain of is that this is the one I’ve returned to the most.
It’s always worth noting that it took place on Saturday, which I now know is the day the 17th hole always has the most alcohol-fueled energy. There’s no Sunday red, which is already a departure from much of the highlight reel.
Living in Jacksonville for the past 8 years, I’ve been to the Players countless times. For large chunks of the day, the 17th can actually feel kind of flat and empty and almost relaxing. The “action” takes up such a small percentage of the actual day that most of the time it feels like lounging around in a public park.
But a few times a day (plus all afternoon on Saturday), the spectator tide slowly rises and you feel a distinct energy in the air as the big names start to show up. And when the feeling gets like that, and the ball is in the air, there is nowhere I’ve been in professional golf that’s more fun.
It’s lost on many that Tiger was paired with Phil Mickelson, a fact immortalized by an unbelievably massive painting inside the doors of the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.
The crowds were as big as they could get. The two biggest names in golf were paired together late on a perfect Florida afternoon on golf’s most famous hole (@ me if you want, but it is). Tiger was a few weeks away from winning his fourth consecutive major.
Of course he was going to make it.
The first thing that strikes me on this current re-watch is that people’s vitriol about slow play never seemed to extend to Tiger, who is absolutely transfixing even when he is just reading putts. When the video starts – and definitely by the 10-second mark – he’s already in the process of building a read. But he doesn’t actually strike the putt until the 2:14 mark. If this was Bryson DeChambeau, he would have to go into the witness protection program.
But having that build-up in crucial moments is what makes golf on TV – specifically Tiger Woods Golf on TV – so great. And that’s what makes this such a great YouTube video. It’s not a clipped highlight version with the context stripped out. You get to see the whole thing, as you would have (or maybe did?) if you watched live on TV.
Editor’s note: Here we enter Neil Schuster, D.J.’s co-creator on NLU’s Strapped series, for a brief interlude.
Neil Schuster, No Laying Up (@Neil_Schuster): For me, that clip is also peak Johnny Miller.
“Doesn’t look like he’s aiming left,” he says. That was classic Johnny, unafraid to second-guess players and fellow announcers, the know-it-all tone, even the “how ’bout in?!” call when the putt is halfway to the hole. Johnny was a know-it-all, but he was often right, and added some spice to the broadcast, especially back then. It’s the best.
Johnny also nailed it when he said Tiger usually does really well when he gets locked in on something difficult. That’s an excellent observation and an awesome set up to him burying this putt.
Piehowski: The NBC team does a tremendous job explaining what they’ve seen earlier in the day, predicting the read, setting up the moment and driving home why Tiger seems to be the only player that gets better as the situation gets tougher. And then, of course, he delivers.
The moment even comes with a built-in measuring stick to help you understand it. After watching the putt go in, we’re given the context of just how difficult it was as the man who would go on to win (at least) 44 times on the PGA Tour three-putts from an easier angle on the top shelf.
Just in case you were curious what “most” looks like.
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