Nick Price’s third win at the Million Dollar Challenge meant a lot more than the first two. We revisit his epic win as part of our magazine’s ‘Replay’ feature.
That’s because he beat Tiger Woods, and did it in a five-hole playoff. Price won when he birdied the 409-yard, par-four 17th.
Woods, whose ball was just off the edge, two-putted the hole. The Durban-born Zimbabwean held his nerve to hole from 12 feet for a birdie three to finally bring a rollercoaster contest to an end.
Overnight leader Lee Westwood of England faded away on the last day and hit a one-over 73 to finish joint fourth alongside Mark O’Meara on 12 under, with former Open champion Justin Leonard in third place two strokes ahead.
Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie was back in joint 10th place on four under, after all 12 players broke par for 72 holes for just the second time in the tournament’s history.
The extra holes created a breathless finale to one of the season’s elite events, which involved just 12 of the world’s top players. But in the closing stages of the final round, few would have predicted it would go to a playoff.
Starting at the 9th, Price reeled off six birdies in a row as he hit a rich vein of form for a 66 that looked set to see him to victory.
But Woods wrote another gripping chapter to his astonishing short career when he chipped in from
just off the green at the final hole. His surprise birdie took him to 15 under, as he matched Price’s total and set up the playoff.
And the drama just went on and on. Woods seemed dead and buried on the first playoff hole, the par-three 16th, when he missed the green and faced a testing shot over a bunker.
But the American superstar produced another stunning chip and then watched his opponent miss his putt for victory, before holing out himself to keep the sudden-death battle alive.
The second playoff hole was halved in four and the two players, who are good friends and neighbours in Florida, headed back up the 18th.
This time it was Price who struggled, but after Woods had hit a superb second into the heart of the green, the Zimbabwean equalled Woods’ last-ditch efforts by chipping to within a few feet to claim his par and halve the hole.
Then came their second trip down the 16th and Price squandered a golden chance to clinch victory with a missed putt after Woods failed to find the green.
But there was to be no repeat at the 17th when, with his third chance to win the title, Price at last grabbed his moment.
It was the first time Woods had played at the tournament, and in Africa for that matter. He was greeted as a hero by South Africa’s majority black population and mobbed at every hole.
He also had the honour of meeting Nelson Mandela. ‘It still gives me chills to this day, thinking about it,’ Woods said. ‘A gentleman asked us to go into a side room and said, “President Mandela will join you in a little bit.” We walked in the room, and my dad and I were just kind of looking around. And I said, “Dad, do you feel that?” And he says, “Yeah, it feels different in this room.”
‘It was just like a different energy in the room,’ Woods said. ‘We looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders. And maybe, I’m guessing probably 30 seconds later, I heard some movement behind me and it was President Mandela folding up the paper. It was pretty amazing.
‘The energy he has, that he exudes, is unlike any person I’ve ever met. And it was an honour to meet him at his home. It’s an experience that I will never, ever forget.’
– This article first appeared in the November issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale
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