2004: UCLA freshman rises early, catches Tiger

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UCLA freshman Chris Heintz made the most of his first PGA Tour event.

Heintz, who earned a ticket into the Buick Invitational by shooting 72 on Torrey Pines’ South Course last October in an amateur qualifier, played a practice round with Tiger Woods Feb. 10 two days before the Buick, then flirted with the cut line.

“It was definitely inspiring,” said Heintz. “Playing the PGA Tour is a goal of mine and it was a great opportunity to get a sneak preview.”

Heintz, who played in four fall events for the Bruins and recorded a 73.8 scoring average, shot 72-73 to miss the cut by two shots. He did finish ahead of major winners Lee Janzen and Shaun Micheel.

Nearly playing on the weekend, however, wasn’t the highlight of Heintz’s week.

Knowing top-ranked Tiger Woods likes to play his practice rounds early, Heintz, 19, got to the first tee shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday and waited for his chance.

“The worst that could happen is he could just say no,” Heintz said.

After watching several pros walk by, Heintz said he could tell Woods was drawing near.

“Tiger is like the president,” Heintz said. “Everyone was talking about him being there. You could hear the whispers from the marshals and the security people.”

When Woods appeared, Heintz asked simply: “Do you mind if I join you?”

“Sure. No problem,” Woods said.

Heintz was up first.

“I was so nervous,” he said. “My legs were shaking so much I thought I would fall over.”

Woods, who played college golf at Stanford, gave the UCLA freshman some grief when the conversation turned to college basketball, as Stanford is ranked No. 1 and the Bruins are below .500. Woods also shared some tournament stories and course advice.

“It speaks a lot of him,” said Heintz. “He was really cool.”

– Lance Ringler

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