Presidential scene as Woods tees off No. 1
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The scene began very presidential. Five Georgia State troopers cleared a path leading from the back of the clubhouse, past the big oak tree and onto the putting green just behind the first tee box. Members, past champions, patrons and media members were stacked shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for him to arrive. The doors swung open and there he was.
Tiger Woods, led by several security guards and plainclothes officers, made his way past the massive crowd and onto the putting green. As the gallery stirred, Steve Stricker, Ian Poulter and Yuta Ikeda teed off just yards away. The noise level never lowered for them.
Shortly after they left the tee, playing parter Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi arrived from the clubhouse. The officers had since moved on and Kuchar and Choi had to fight the crowds to find the putting green.
Five minutes later, Woods walked off the putting green and onto the tee box. The patrons applauded loudly and Woods showed off his white teeth with an ear-to-ear smile. A small plane carrying a sign that read, “Tiger, Did You Mean Bootyism?!” flew overhead. Woods received an embrace from K.J. Choi and a handshake from Matt Kuchar. The patrons continued to applaud. The roar grew as Woods grabbed the head cover off his driver and began taking practice swings.
Then they went silent.
Woods stepped up to the tee, waggled and ripped a laser down the center of the fairway, twirling his club on the follow through. More applause.
As he walked down the first fairway, Woods took off his cap and continued to smile, making eye contact with patrons on both sides of the fairway.
It looked like he was having fun. I wondered how a man is able to play with goose bumps.
Woods’ drive, which had stopped in the middle of the fairway, was the longest of his playing partners. He took some time over his approach shot, backing off to check wind direction and converse with caddie Steve Williams. When he settled over the ball, Woods hit a mid-iron shot that bored into a stiff left-to-right breeze. His ball took one hop on the green and checked 15 feet left of the hole.
The man standing next to me turned to his friend and smiled. No words were necessary.
While Woods surveyed his birdie putt, leaves blew across the green and past the hole, which was cut 23 paces on and 14 from the left. The plane carrying the sign had circled back and was flying over the green. Woods, nor any of the players on the green, noticed it. The patrons went silent as Woods approached his putt. The ball rolled directly towards the cup, but ran out of steam and stopped inches short. Woods tapped in and briskly walked towards the second tee.