This Tiger Woods souvenir has special meaning to rookie Tour winner

This Tiger Woods souvenir has special meaning to rookie Tour winner

The PGA Tour’s newest winner, Jake Knapp, has quite the Cinderella story, which you are probably aware of by now.

And if you aren’t, here’s a quick rundown: Knapp turned pro in 2016 and played on the PGA Tour Canada for a few years. He won twice in 2019 to earn a Korn Ferry Tour card for 2020, but he missed 20 cuts in 36 starts and lost his status. He then worked as a bouncer at a nightclub from 2021 to ’22. In August 2022, he won again on the PGA Tour Canada, which helped him earn another promotion to the Korn Ferry Tour. This time he made the most of it, recording 10 top 10s in 22 starts to earn a PGA Tour card for 2024. That’s how you become a 29-year-old PGA Tour rookie.

Knapp tied for 70th and was cut in his first two starts of the year, but he was T3 at the Farmers Insurance Open — good for a $477,000 paycheck — and was T28 in Phoenix, which led to his life-changing week at the Mexico Open at Vidanta. He torched Vidanta Vallarta with a 64 on Friday and 63 on Saturday, and his closing 71 on Sunday was good for a two-shot win in just his ninth career PGA Tour start.

It was at the Farmers, and again in Mexico, when more information — thanks to his PGA Tour bio — trickled out about Knapp’s interesting past, which included his stint as a bouncer, love for the video game “Call of Duty” and the fact that he can solve a Rubik’s Cube (or, better put, that he would even choose to include that in his bio in the first place).

Here’s another fun nugget from Knapp’s bio: He said his earliest golf memory was watching Tiger Woods beat Stephen Ames 9 and 8 at the 2006 WGC Match Play, which largely was memorable for what happened afterward.

The Woods-Ames match is notable, of course, because the term “9 and 8” is now synonymous with both Woods and Ames. Before the match, Ames famously said: “Anything can happen, especially where he’s hitting the ball.” A motivated Woods then won 9 and 8 in a match that didn’t go past the 10th hole. Asked about Ames’ comments afterward, Woods simply smiled and said: “I think he understands now.”

Now back to Sunday. In his winner’s press conference, Knapp was asked about being at that particular match. He grew up in Costa Mesa, Calif., and at that time the WGC Match Play was held at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., about an hour from Knapp’s home. He attended that year with his dad and brother.

Woods’ caddie at the time was Stevie Williams.

“I was just hounding Stevie all day to give me a ball, give me a ball, give me a ball, and he kept on telling me after the round,” Knapp said on Sunday. “Then Tiger finally closed out Stephen Ames 9 and 8 on the 10th hole. I was standing back by the 10th tee. They walked right by and I asked him for a ball and neither of them really did anything. They walked into the locker room and I was like, dang, like, there they go. Then 10 seconds later Stevie walked out and he was like, ‘Hey, kid,’ tossed me his ball.”

And yes, Knapp still has it.

“It was pretty awesome,” Knapp said. “It’s really only the piece of sports memorabilia that I have that I really cherish. Still got it in the same little plastic case sitting on my shelf at home.”

That was a memorable day for Knapp, but Sunday probably topped in.

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