Saturday, August 30, 2003

Seeing Tiger

Yesterday, I saw Tiger Woods at a golf tournament.

He was in Norton, Massachusetts, at the Deutsche Bank Championship. I bought a ticket for the first round of this tournament the day they went on sale in April.

Tiger was the main and only attraction. When I arrived at the course, I saw that he was approaching the 9th green. I rushed over to the 10th tee. The tee box and grand stand was full, and I had to wait in a distant spot. As the throng waited for Tiger, putting on the 9th, his security entourage paced the gallery waiting on the 10th. Then, like a stampede, a herd of people started to line up along the cross walk between the 9th and the 10th. They bulged forward as Tiger strode to the 10th tee. He was a rock star, a messiah, his flock quietly but determinedly dogging his every step, as far as they were allowed.

His tee shot on 10 was a thing of wonder. A long iron that went nearly the distance of the woods that his playing partners hit (Roger Allenby, Kaname Yokoo). Straight and accurate. As the players strode off, his gallery, his band of people strode off with him.

I skipped past the crowd to the 11th tee box. It was a par 3, and I saw Tiger at some distance hit a reasonable shot. Tiger marched forward. So did his partners. So did the huge gallery, the huge controlled mob.

And then I decided to stay at the 11th tee. All that was left were a handful of people. I moved to a spot right next to the tee markers. The next group of golfers sauntered into the tee box, among them the 1995 U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin. Then the next group came, among them the 1998 Masters champion Mark O'Meara. There was no crowd to speak of. We at the tee could hear the golfers and their caddies fall into a banter of yardage, and club selection. I stayed long enough on the 11th to see the eventual leader of the tournament Justin Rose tee off.

I did make one more effort to get up close to Tiger. I managed to stand at a crosswalk, waiting for him to get to the next tee. I was an arm's length away from him, watching him walk past me. He was slim, but not slight. His head was bowed (he wasn't playing well today), but his eyes were alert and wary underneath the brim of his cap. There was a contained ferocity, a fierce concentration. The greatest golfer in the world strode past me; I won't be forgetting his eyes.

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