For decades, Akron's Firestone County Club has hosted some of golf's greatest names and seen some of its greatest moments. It has earned its reputation as one of the most popular spots in professional golf.
Memories are certainly fresh in the minds of Northeast Ohioans who make the short drive to Akron each year. With the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational set to tee-off this weekend, we decided to take a look back at the most memorable moments in Firestone's proud history.
5. "The best win I've ever had"
As Tiger Woods' caddy for 12 years, Steve Williams had a front row seat for some of the greatest moments in golf history. However, their long relationship came to an end when Woods abruptly fired Williams just two weeks before the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Williams, who was "shocked" by the move, had been caddying for fellow Australian Adam Scott while Woods sat out with an injury. In his first event with Williams as his permanent caddy, Scott shot 17 under par to win by four strokes. Woods, meanwhile, finished tied for 37th.
The fans on 18 chanted "Stevie!" as golfer and caddy made their way to the green. When it was all over, Williams called it "the best win I've ever had." He later backtracked his comments, calling them "over the top."
4. The final "World Series of Golf"
Firestone is perhaps most remembered for hosting the World Series of Golf for over 30 years, where a small field of the world's best players came to Akron to battle it out. Upon its promotion to official PGA Tour status in 1976, it became the first event to feature a winner's prize of $100,000.
With the newly-formed World Golf Championships set to take over, fans and players got a chance to say goodbye to the World Series of Golf in 1998. Future World Number One David Duval beat Phil Mickelson by two shots, joining a list of legendary players to win the event.
3. The Golden Bear reigns supreme
Firestone has hosted the PGA Championship three times, with the last coming in 1975. That year, it was an Ohio native who would add to his already legendary resume.
Jack Nicklaus trailed Australia's Bruce Crampton by four strokes going into the third round before carding a solid 67, capped off by an impressive par on "The Monster" at 16. Crampton, meanwhile, struggled with a 75, and Nicklaus would hold on the next day to win his 14th major championship.
2. "Shot in the dark"
No one has dominated Firestone like Tiger Woods, who won an untouchable eight times from 1999-2013. He was never more dominant than at the WGC-NEC Invitational in 2000, when he went wire-to-wire to win by 11 strokes. In the process, Woods tied the course record (61 in the second round) and set the tournament record (-21).
However, the signature moment came on the very last hole on Sunday. Though a Tiger victory was already assured, darkness was descending on Akron. As Woods lined up for his approach shot on 18, he could barely see his own ball, let alone the flagstick.
Undeterred, Woods swung away and hit his shot to within two feet of the hole, to the astonishment of the crowd. He would make the putt for birdie, and the cameras ended up being the only light available during the trophy ceremony. The shot remains one of the greatest of Woods' career.
1. A battle for the ages
Tiger Woods would look to defend his title at the 2001 WGC-NEC Invitational, but unlike 2000's 11-shot win, this one would not come easy.
Though Woods was close throughout, Jim Furyk looked to be the weekend's most consistent golfer, holding the lead at the end of each of the first three rounds. On Sunday, however, Tiger took the lead for the first time early, and the two men would go back and forth before forcing a sudden-death playoff.
On the first playoff hole, Furyk made the shot of the day, holing out from a bunker to save par and keep the match going. The two would battle it out through seven sudden-death holes before Woods finally took his third straight event at Firestone.
"Now you understand why most of the golfers are gray and balding," Woods said after his win. "They have to go through things like this."
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