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Gary Putnik | | January 23, 2022

NCAA Video Vault: Tiger Woods captures 1996 NCAA golf title

Highlights from Tiger Woods' 1996 NCAA national championship win

Tiger Woods’ 1996 NCAA men’s golf individual championship didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Instead, it was just more of the same for his young career. 

Entering his second and final season at Stanford, he had already won three U.S. Junior Amateur tournaments (1991, ‘92, ‘93) and two U.S. Amateur titles (1994, ‘95). Following his NCAA title, he would also go on to win the U.S. Amateur one more time to become the only golfer to win the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur three consecutive times. 

Woods’ first season as a Cardinal was a good start for a collegiate player by many’s standards: three wins, scoring average of 71.37, nine rounds in the 60s and 25 at par or better and a T-41 at the 1995 Masters (low am, +5). 

HISTORY: Check out all the other NCAA men's golf champions 

His final year at Stanford (1995-96) would make his first season look like child’s play. Tiger finished his sophomore season with eight wins, a scoring average of 70.61, 18 rounds in the 60s and a low round of 61. 

In postseason play Woods was lights out, beating the next closest opponent in the Pac-10 championship by 14 strokes. The 54-hole event lasted two days with two of the rounds being played in one day. At Big Canyon Country Club, he broke the course record twice in one day. Going low with 61 in the morning and dropping a 65 in the afternoon. 

In an interview with Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner, Woods’ teammate and now Stanford's head coach Conrad Ray said “It was literally like a Tour event with all of the roars.”

The West Regional wasn’t much of a challenge either as the Stanford men’s golf team had earned the right to host the regional at its home course. There, Woods would go 68-70-67-205 (-8) to acquire his 10th win at Stanford and help lift the Cardinal to its first NCAA Regional title. 

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Everything was lining up perfectly for a postseason sweep for Tiger and possibly the second team title in three seasons for Stanford. The next challenger was the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tennessee, just east of Chattanooga. 

This Pete Dye course has now hosted two NCAA men’s golf championships (1996, 2010). The longest yardage listed on its scorecard is 7,450 yards. John Reis, one of the rules officials at the 1996 championship, looked back at the set-up in ‘96 during the 2010 tournament.

“The course wasn’t nearly as severe as it was in 1996,” said Reis. “If you missed the fairway, your ball was in very high and thick grass. If you didn’t see exactly where it went in, chances were you weren’t going to find it.” 

The set-up proved to be no match for Woods’ abilities. He went low in the first three rounds, going 69-67-69 — the 67 second round was a course record at the Honors Course. This gave him a nine-stroke lead over Arizona’s Rory Sabbatini. For Woods not to win, Sabbatini would have to play perfect golf and Woods would have to falter. 

And falter he would. After Tiger made the Honors Course look foolish the first three rounds, it finally showed its teeth in the final go around. Woods recorded a triple bogey on the ninth after sending one into the water. Later, he went on to card four-straight bogeys to finish at eight over. 

“It doesn’t feel like I shot 80. I mean, it’s not like I gave up and shot an 80. I really dug deep, and I am pleased with the result,” said Woods after the round.

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Well, Sabbatini could have argued Tiger was more beatable than ever in the final round as Woods slipped up and posted the highest score of any player that finished T-9 or better. The rest of the field, including Sabbatini, wasn’t able to take advantage of the slip-up. 

Woods’ misstep was one of many in the final round, no one in the top 10 went into the 60s and only three played at par or better. With the tough course conditions claiming victim after victim, the Stanford men’s team as a whole wasn’t able to overcome the challenge.

The Cardinal failed to make a push and finished fourth in the team standings with a final score of +53. Arizona State ended up winning the team championship at +34.

Tiger was able to secure the 1996 NCAA Men’s Golf Individual Championship with a final score of 69-67-69-80-285 (-3). 

Since that win, Woods has gone on to be one of the best to play the sport with 82 PGA Tour wins, 15 majors, along with countless other awards and accolades. 

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