Going toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods is one of the most difficult tasks in golf. Not only do you have to contend with Woods’ generational physical talents, but you also have to navigate the aura that surrounds him. When Woods makes a birdie (or an eagle), the roars are different. No one in golf can energize a gallery like Woods can, and it makes defeating him that much harder.
That aura is a big reason why Woods has been so successful in his historic career. When his name appears on a leaderboard, or a roar comes from the gallery following his group, the rest of the field notices.
But there have been a select few who’ve been able to block out the noise and go toe-to-toe with Woods at a major. Y.E. Yang did the unthinkable at the 2009 PGA Championship as he chased down Woods for an improbable major victory, while Bob May also went the distance in 2000 at the PGA, ultimately losing in a playoff.
The list of those who have held off Woods on a Sunday at a major is short, but you can count Rich Beem among them. He outlasted Woods down the stretch at Hazeltine during the 2002 PGA Championship. Beem finished 10 under, one ahead of Woods, who was four clear of third. Beem shot 68 on Sunday to Woods’ 67. On this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar Podcast, he explained the mindset he used to claim the title.
“I was playing so good that I didn’t care who anyone else was,” Beem said. “Yes, I heard the roars coming down the stretch. And I’m not gonna lie, I heard them.”
However, every time Beem heard a roar coming from Woods’ group, he attributed them in his mind to being for Fred Funk, the other member of Woods’ two-some.
“I knew full well that it wasn’t Fred, but you have to deflect,” Beem said. “If you think about what is actually transpiring and what’s going on, you’re gonna be done.
“I think that’s what Tiger did best — he got everyone else to think,” he continued. “I never bought into it that week.”
Check out Beem’s entire interview below as he recounts his magical week at Hazeltine, what he disagrees with Brandel Chamblee about and more.