PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — It only took Mike "Fluff" Cowan one tournament as the caddie for Tiger Woods to see a shot he had never seen.
Joe LaCava had that moment in his third week working for Woods.
Cowan was the first caddie Woods hired when he made his professional debut in the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open. He doesn't remember which round, or even what hole they were on, just the club selection off the tee.
"It was his stinger, his 2-iron," Cowan said, looking around until he locked his eyes on the waist-high mesh around the practice green at Sherwood Country Club. "It didn't hardly get over that green net. But it stayed in the air forever. It went out there 270 yards or something. That was the one that got me.
"It was just a different kind of shot that I had ever seen anybody hit."
LaCava, hired by Woods in October, had spent plenty of time around the 14-time major champion during his 20 years on the bag with Fred Couples, with whom Woods often played.
Even so, a 3-wood on the par-5 15th at Royal Melbourne during the Presidents Cup got his attention, and a few weeks later, he still had trouble describing what he saw.
"He hit it such a way that it was trajecting like this," LaCava, using his hand to show a flat line with the slightest downward arc. "But it wasn't coming down. It wasn't rising, either. It's hard to describe. It was gaining speed, but it wasn't going up. That's when I thought, 'This guy is making the ball do something I've never seen anyone else do.' I had never seen a trajectory like this on a 3-wood, or any other shot."
LaCava said the pin was cut in the front right portion of the green, and the ball finally stopped in the back left corner. The shot was into the wind, and in firm conditions, and he estimates it went just under 270 yards.
Just then, Woods walked up on the discussion. And when he sensed the conversation ending, he said, "Keep going."
"Look at that little grin on his face," LaCava said. "He knows what I'm talking about. But he won't say anything about it."
MATCH PLAY: This is the final week to qualify for the Match Play Championship, making the world rankings relevant for the first of several times this year.
Among those on the bubble for the 64-man field are Ernie Els (No. 62), followed by Kevin Na, Robert Allenby, Ryan Moore and Charles Howell, who at No. 66 is currently just beyond getting the final spot at Dove Mountain in two weeks.
That depends on Paul Casey, who dislocated his right shoulder while snowboarding. Casey is on the mend, and there is an outside chance he could play. Phil Mickelson already has said he is not playing.
Na tied for fifth in the Phoenix Open, moving up nine spots to No. 63. He had nail down his spot in the World Golf Championship at Pebble Beach this week, as can Ryan Moore at No. 65.
The others can only hope they hold their positions. Els, Allenby and Howell are not playing the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am or the Dubai Desert Classic.
Eight of the next 10 players beyond No. 66 are playing this week — Joost Luiten, Rory Sabbatini, Nicolas Colsaerts, Alex Noren, Spencer Levin, Sean O'Hair, Vijay Singh and Chez Reavie. The exceptions are Toru Taniguchi (No. 70) and Johnson Wagner (No. 73).
Last week's winners, Paul Lawrie (Qatar) and Kyle Stanley (Phoenix), both locked up spots in Match Play.
INKSTER OUT: Even when she took time off the LPGA Tour to have two children, Juli Inkster never went more than a month without playing golf. Now comes her biggest challenge.
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