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Tiger's morning


Short Game Tragedy
Mar 8, 2005
Worth the read. FYI, local coverage during the PGA will be found here:


Tiger's morning

Golf's early-rising star encounters a parking glitch and wisecracks
Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Star-Ledger Staff

When his loaner Buick rolled through the front gates in the darkness of the early morning, the world's No. 1 golfer fittingly was the first player to arrive at Baltusrol Golf Club on the first practice day of PGA Championship week. Tiger Woods, the game's most famous morning person, was getting an early start in his pursuit to win his third major championship of the season.

The car drove through the security checkpoint and past the first tee, then took a right up the ramp and into the members' parking lot, where past winners of the event have been given preferred parking in stalls designated by painted wooden signs. The vehicle drove past the first spot -- "Hal Sutton, 1983 PGA champion" -- then past spaces assigned to Larry Nelson, Wayne Grady, Paul Azinger and Mark Brooks. The sign at the next parking space read:

TIGER WOODS 1999, 2000 PGA champion

There was just one problem: Somebody had parked in his space. A rusty silver Honda with Pennsylvania license plates had been dumped brazenly in the spot reserved for the greatest golfer of his generation. So, while embarrassed tournament officials hurriedly called to have the car towed, Woods found another spot.

Jack Nicklaus' space.

If he can't have Nicklaus' place in history yet, he'll take his parking slot.
Welcome to New Jersey, Tiger. Parking is at a premium here. Even for you.
And so began the countdown to the season's final major championship, on the state's most storied golf course. About an hour later, at 6:32 a.m., Woods struck the first ball off the first tee, his drive rocketing over the head of the maintenance worker making his final diagonal cuts across the dewy fairway. Three hundred yards later, the ball came to rest.

As Woods walked past a half-dozen guys raking a large sand trap, they all stopped and stood at attention as if the color guard were marching up the fairway. And that's the way it went for the first five holes before the gates opened for fans: Woods' gallery consisted of gawking volunteers, sweaty guys filling divots, and concession stand workers making $6 burgers.
He was putting on the fourth hole when his coach, Hank Haney, arrived, walking fast and licking the breakfast off his fingertips. It was 7:15 a.m.
"Seven o'clock, huh?" Woods said with a smirk.
When Haney was midway through his alibi of security delays and a credential mishap, Woods cut him off.

"You'd better come up with a better excuse than that," he said.
Only four holes into his first official practice round, Woods already had adopted some healthy New Jersey cynicism.

"People say Tiger is like clockwork," Haney said later. "But he's more like a clock that's been set ahead. When he says 7 o'clock, he really means 6:30."

Woods was so early that the first six holes, well, didn't have holes yet. While he putted at a tee in the ground on the sixth green, a worker hustled up the fairway, punched a hole, inserted a flagstick, then asked Woods: "You always play this early?"

Woods nodded.

"Again tomorrow?"

Another nod.

By then, the fans had streamed through the gates, following the "Tiger's on the course" rumor. And as they watched him methodically take apart Baltusrol -- he missed only two fairways, knocked a bunch of wedge shots within three feet, knocked in several putts and holed out a shot from a bunker -- they offered their admiration.

Danielle Gemignani, an 11-year-old from Hillsborough, walked every hole with Woods because "he's really good and he started at a young age." The pitch-and-putt star, a whiz with her 8-iron, admired her idol quietly. She was in the minority.

"Tiger, you're my idol," one guy shouted. When Woods smiled, another offered: "I love you, too. Tiger. Can I borrow $200,000?"

One fan tried to undercut Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, who reportedly gets a 10 percent cut of the winnings.

"Tiger, I'll carry your bag for 5 percent!" came the offer.

They wanted his shoes. Not the model, the actual shoes. They wanted autographs, even though he doesn't sign until after he is finished with his practice round. They wondered where his wife was. They wanted Williams to settle a bet: Is he from Australia or New Zealand? (It's New Zealand.) They offered to hit a tee shot for Woods on No. 17, a par-5, 650-yard monster. And when Woods hit his tee shot on that hole into the rough, they gave him permission to hit another.

"Mulligan!" someone yelled when Woods teed up again.

For three hours, they welcomed him to the Garden State. This will be the first time he has played competitively here.

"You're why I love golf, Tiger," one fan told him. "Well, that and it gets me out of the house."

State troopers Chris Boyle and Lenny Strobel shook their heads at the comments. The SWAT team specialists out of the Totowa barracks, part of the new Homeland Security force, drew Tiger duty all week. It sounded like a plum assignment ... until they realized they would be walking about five miles a day in thick humidity and full uniform.

"It's going to be a long week," Strobel said.

And it didn't start well. When the troopers tried to obtain Woods' schedule, Team Tiger was tight-lipped. The troopers, it seems, are on a need-to-know basis.

"Is Tiger always like this?" Boyle asked.

He stiffed the local media, too. When asked to comment on his round, Woods told The Star-Ledger, "I'll talk tomorrow, okay?"

Sure. No problem.

Maybe we should give the guy a break. After all, he's a little testy. He had trouble finding a place to park.

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