It goes without saying, but all eyes were on Tiger Woods when he officially joined the PGA Tour in 1996. He won three straight U.S. Amateur titles from 1994-96 and signed a lucrative endorsement contract as soon as he turned pro.
Of course there was intrigue surrounding the phenom. John Maginnes vividly remembers his first up-close look at Woods, when they were paired together at the 1996 B.C. Open, which was Woods’ fourth career start as a pro. Maginnes, now a golf analyst on Sirius XM, recalled that memorable pairing when he was a guest on this week’s GOLF Subpar Podcast.
On the third hole, a par-5, Woods pulled his tee shot into the trees but it kicked back out into the fairway.
“I dribbled my drive right out to the corner, so I know I got like 240 to the front,” Maginnes said. “Maybe I can roll my 3-wood onto the front of the green. Tiger’s 30 yards behind me. … Tiger pulls out an iron because he has 270 to the front; he’s clearly laying up. Makes sense.”
But Tiger had other ideas.
“I’m standing 10 feet away from the hardest golf swing I’ve ever seen in my life, the loudest contact to a balata golf ball I’ve ever heard,” Maginnes said. “And this ball took off and looked like a laser.”
Maginnes said just when he thought the ball was supposed to drop, it kept going. And going, and going.
“And by this point, Tiger’s already walked 40 yards,” Maginnes said. “As soon as he made contact he knew. It landed about four steps onto the front of the green and trickled to the back fringe.”
Mike “Fluff” Cowan was Woods’ caddie. Maginnes first met him the previous year at the U.S. Open.
“And I looked at Fluff, and I want to be very clear to all the listeners, I was not asking advice when I said, ‘Fluff, what the F was that?’ And he said, ‘That’s our 2-iron we carried about 275.’
“At the time I was averaging 268 off the tee, and he hit an iron 275. And I did dribble that 3-wood right on the front fringe, by the way.”
Maginnes tied for 60th. Woods tied for 3rd and two weeks later, in his next start, won the Las Vegas Invitational for his first career PGA Tour victory.