When he stepped up to the first tee box at Glen Abbey Golf Club in 2000, Tiger Woods was in the midst of the most dominant stretch of golf ever.
The PGA Tour had become as much about Tiger vs. history as it was Tiger vs. other players.
The ‘Tiger Slam’ was three-quarters complete -- he had won the U.S. Open by a record 15 strokes, the Open Championship by eight and the PGA Championship in a playoff.
Woods came to the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in pursuit of golf’s Triple Crown – victories at all three of Canada’s, Britain’s and the U.S.’s national opens. Only Lee Trevino, in 1971, had previously achieved the feat.
What he did on the 72nd and final hole at the course in Oakville, Ont., only cemented his legacy – and that unparalleled run of golf – even further.
Lorne Rubenstein, Globe and Mail golf columnist: At that time, [Tiger] was the clear favorite in any tournament he played, and he was showing why. Every time he played, he was hitting shots nobody else could hit and winning big championships by outlandish margins.
Lorie Kane, four-time LPGA Tour winner from P.E.I.: If you look at the best of the best of young guys now playing on tour and the great group of Canadian players that we have, they all grew up watching Tiger and watching those shots.
Grant Waite, 2000 Canadian Open runner-up: Being on the tour during that time I knew this was going to be a special era for someone like that. And obviously as a player out there, I think it was very cool to have the opportunity to compete against him.
Rubenstein: [The 2000 Canadian Open] was really between Tiger and Grant Waite. But [Tiger] played beautiful golf, especially in those middle two rounds after opening with [an even-par] 72. And then, of course, being Tiger Woods, he came back and he shot a 65, 64. And he was playing that awesome, powerful golf, making birdie after birdie, [and] eagles.
Waite: I came off the second-place finish the week before and opened [with] 69. It was really Tiger against the rest of the field for a while there during that stretch. And so you just started to feel the stress like, ‘My gosh, this guy's playing great. Is this going to be another runaway for him?’
With Woods and Waite tied for the lead through three rounds, they played together in the final pairing on Sunday at Glen Abbey.
Waite: We go to the first tee and here's a person dressed in a tiger suit. And I don't mean, like, a suit. I mean like an actual woolly tiger thing. It's like 100 degrees out in the sun. Like, that person's going to die before too much longer as it's so hot.
Kane: I do know from being paired with the best players in the world that it can be difficult to play with them.
Waite: There was just a weirdness to it for me because I felt like, OK, everyone expects him to win and I'm playing really good and I know I can play well. So I kind of relaxed just like, OK, I'm just going to play my golf and I'll be OK. But if I try and chase him the whole way, I'm just not going to do it.
Rubenstein: It was Tiger at the peak of his powers. … Even if you didn't follow golf at all, you knew the name Tiger Woods.
Waite: I got off to a really good start, which was fortunate. I birdied No. 2 and took over the lead. And then No. 3, I also birdied and then No. 4, we both birdied and then he birdies the next hole. … I kind of weathered the storm here at the start where you just kind of melt in because it's so loud, everyone’s just cheering for Tiger, and basically you're invisible to them.
Rubenstein: Tiger had a one-shot lead going to [the par-5] 18 that final day. Grant hit it in the fairway a little short of where Tiger was in the bunker, so he was forced to play.
Kane: Grant's probably thinking, ‘I'm in a great position. I've worked hard enough to get myself here, and all I can do is play the best shot I can play.’ And anybody that comes up against the best players in the world, that's the great thing about our game is that at the end of the day, you're the one hitting your golf ball. I can't check you. I can't do a lot of things to distract you. And that's just golf.
Waite: All I want to do is get a good shot here and force him to make a decision what he's going to do. Is he going to try and hit this on the green or is he going to have to lay up?
Rubenstein: [Waite] put it on the green about 30, 35 feet away. So he had a putt for eagle. He did everything could. He didn't make any mistakes on that. And then Tiger's in the bunker and things are looking maybe a little bit better for Waite. But he also knows this is Tiger Woods.
Waite: My thought process was, ‘OK, I'm in good shape. I'm going to force him to do something that he probably may not want to do. And we'll just see what happens.’
Rubenstein: There was no lip on the bunker. Tiger was well back in the middle of [it].
As rain begins to fall and soak the sand, Woods grabs a 6-iron club and sets up in the bunker on the right side of the fairway, about 218 yards away from the hole. He doesn’t have a direct look at it – trees beside the bunker partially block his view - and there is a large pond between him and the green.
Waite stands about 15 yards back on the fairway.
Waite: When the ball took off, it was in a different direction. I'm like, ‘Oh my goodness. He hit in the water.’ And so it was just like the shot of adrenaline that he's in the water. … It ends up going just to the right of the flag, and just on the back edge of the green.
Rubenstein: He sort of runs a bit to his left because the shot has to carry on that angle. It carries a grouping of trees out there, which there was no problem in carrying that, but he couldn't see the ball. And then there was the big reaction from the crowd. And he knew he hit a great shot from there.
Kane: I chuckle when I think, did he shove it a tiny bit? Because I'm not sure that was his intent to start it where he started it and where it ended up. That's the smallest bit of land on that green.
Waite: If you watch the coverage and you watch his face, he pushed that ball for sure and he thought he had a hit in the water, [or] was going to be very close to going in the water for sure. And at the time he said, no, he didn't do that.
But I've talked to him since and he said, yeah, he pushed it a little bit.
Woods (on camera after the tournament): That one shot I did hit, it was pretty good, but you know what? I didn’t hit the green -- I hit it over the green, so it wasn’t really that good.
Rubenstein: [Tiger] ended up getting the ball close to the hole on the third shot and then just tapped it in to win. Grant Waite had hit his putt in for birdie, and all Tiger had to do was get down in two. And it wasn't very far off the green at all. It wasn't a difficult up-and-down.
And he did it and won.
Waite: He shot 65 and I shot 66 and he was 22-under and I was 21-under -- both tournament records. … Just one grain of sand between that ball and the club face and my whole life is completely different.
Kane: I think that shot is like [when] he holes the pitch on 16 at Augusta [at the 2005 Masters]. It's that caliber of shot.
Waite: You have to calm yourself down to be able to pull that off and have the talent to be able to pull that off at that one opportunity. Because you don't get two or three goes at this, you only get one. And he, at that time, possessed all of that.
Rubenstein: It wasn't the most difficult shot Tiger had ever hit it as [much as] the ultimate moment that was full of drama and a shot that 99 per cent of amateur golfers couldn't imagine themselves hitting. [Waite] didn't do anything wrong. He didn't lose it. Tiger won it.
Kane: That's the confidence that Tiger carried in himself. And I think it has bled through all of us. That's what he's done for our sport. He's given us the idea that anything is possible.
Waite: There's a lot of failure that goes on in golf. And this was a failure. But it was a failure in a different way. This was a failure where you can actually feel pretty good about because you played well, did everything you wanted to, and you went up against the greatest player in your generation and made him play at the highest level in order to beat you. So I'll take all that with me.
Rubenstein: There aren't many golf shots in the history of the game that people are still talking about with this sort of excitement 22 years later. … It's an iconic shot.
We overuse that word, but that [shot] really is.