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Tiger Woods loved the way he hit the ball during his last visit to Hazeltine. (Schmidt/Getty Images)

Woods returns to Hazeltine with positive memories of his 2002 shotmaking

Tiger Woods finished second at the 2002 PGA Championship, but he still remembers his strong finish on Sunday and, even more, what he calls "probably one of the all-time greatest shots I've ever hit."

CHASKA, Minn. (PA) -- Tiger Woods heads into the final major of the season trying to forget what happened at the Open Championship, but with two happy memories of Hazeltine National.

The world No. 1 played "probably one of the all-time greatest shots I've ever hit" during the PGA Championship's last visit to the Minnesota course in 2002.

He also came up with his best-ever finish to a major that same week, although there was one thing wrong with it. Four closing birdies still left him one behind fellow American Rich Beem.

The shot came on a cold, blustery and damp Saturday morning when Woods had to return to complete his second round following a weather delay.

After pulling his drive to the 457-yard 18th -- this year it will be 18 yards longer -- the Masters and U.S. Open champion found the ball awkwardly placed in a bunker. Not only that, but there were trees in front of him, the green was 211 yards away, it was uphill and the 30mph wind was left to right.

"Both feet were actually up against the lip, both of my heels," he said. Yet despite the ball being below his feet he "absolutely flushed" a towering 3-iron to 12 feet and sank the putt.

"The one thing I was guarding against was losing it to the right in the grandstand,” he explained. β€œIt's got to rank up there with the best shots I've ever hit, given the lie and the conditions."

Playing partner Ernie Els, the reigning Open champion at the time, had one word for it: "Unbelievable."

The following day Woods just failed to catch Beem and was left to rue bogeys at the 13th and 14th. But to make birdie putts of eight, 10, 10 and six feet on the last four greens, all after superb iron shots, meant he was four clear of third-placed Chris Riley.

"Any time you finish second in any tournament it's frustrating and disappointing, but I'm also pumped at the way I finished,” he said. "I'm going to learn from those mistakes and I'm also going to learn from the way I approached those last four holes as well."

Just four weeks earlier, Woods's hopes of completing golf's first-ever Grand Slam of all four majors in one season had gone with a third-round 81 in terrible weather at Muirfield. His second place at Hazeltine showed how quickly he could bounce back and anyone concerned about his chances now after his missed cut at Turnberry need only think back three years.

The only previous time Woods crashed out early from a major in his professional career was the 2006 U.S. Open after the death of his father -- and he then went and won his third Open at Hoylake and his third PGA Championship at Medinah.

Two years ago he added a fourth, but knee surgery last year prevented him going for a third in a row -- something last achieved by Walter Hagen in the 1920s when the championship was match play -- and for a record-equalling fifth in all.

Hagen and Jack Nicklaus hold that record and, regardless of events in Scotland, it will be no surprise if Woods joins them.
 

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