Tiger the Whistle Stop Tour Pt 4

By Casey BiererJanuary 7, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editors note: Golf Channel business reporter Casey Bierer participated recently in Nike Golfs Whistle Stop Tour; a press and media junket that traveled a group of Nike execs and invited media to four cities in 48 hours. This column is the fourth entry of a six-part series chronicling the journey.

Heres a recipe we havent seen before. Take the following key ingredients: one Nike GV jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore, a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter (me) and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.

The assignment given to me by Golf Channel ' create a reporters first person video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Tiger Woods. This was going to be fun.

Part 4
So whos on this plane besides me, anyway? Glad you asked. Nike was represented by Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf; Cindy Davis, domestic general manager; and Beth Gast, Nike Golfs public relations directorthe Whistle Stop Tour was her brainchild. One guy wasnt so lucky with bad weather. Tom Stites, head of club creation for Nike, had been on a hunting trip in Canada and got snowed in. As things stood hed be meeting us in Scottsdale.

From the press there was Mark Soltau from Golf Digest. Marks an interesting chap in that he is also the main content administrator for Tiger Woods official Web site. They met when Mark was a Bay area sports journalist and Tiger was at Stanford. Other Whistle Stop media passengers included Gene Yasuda from Golfweek, Bill Saporito from Time Magazine, and John Garrity from Sports Illustrated. I had a cameraman with me ' MaGoo (Mike McGarry) ' as well a producer, Hegs (Matthew Hegarty).

Now, lets talk about this jet. Too cool for words, but Ill give it a try. James Bond never had it this good. Plush is an understatement. Beautiful burled wood, fit and finish like a Rolls Royce and then some. Wonderfully comfortable living room style seating for 12; you could squeeze 14 if you had to. Galley and bathroom aft, all arranged for ultimate efficiency, service and comfort. The ride was smooth and quiet. No need to raise your voice on this aircraft. What a way to travel. I want one.

Allison, our flight attendant, served a nice breakfast while we all chatted away amiably, had another cup of coffee, read the paper, etc. My producer Hegs seemed right at home, I must say. Kind of looked like Richie Rich sitting there in his sport coat, legs crossed, reading the paper, drinking his coffeelike he owned the joint. Good for Hegs.

About 35 minutes out from touchdown in Los Angeles the conversation quieted. Little notebooks appeared... pads of paper, scraps of paper and the like came out. Everyone was making notes. The journalists, I presume, were thinking about what we would ask Tiger; the Nike execs about what they would say and do in each of their respective roles -- being buttoned up, being professionally prepared and ready to go; it is seriously important when dealing with the No. 1 athlete on the planet. No one wanted to drop the ball on this deal.

A gust of wind hit the GV at what looked to me to be about 200 feet above the runway. I later saw on video how the plane rocked and shifted in air before the wings leveled out again just prior to touchdown. No worries, wheels down, and we made it to Los Angeles. Hawthorne Airport, actually, just across the street from LAX. Captain Blair reported nice weather on the ground as we taxied to the opposite end of the runway and parked at the airports admin building.

Everything happens much quicker where private jet travel is concerned. As soon as the plane came to a stop the door was opened, the stairs folded down and within moments we were all deplaning as the ever smiling Captain Blair bid us good luck.

Fifty feet or so up the nose of the jet were gathered some 40 television cameras and still photographers. Obviously, they must have thought Tiger was on this plane. I was the last passenger off. They didnt look too impressed.

We were hurried in to waiting vans and SUVs ' all shiny and black ' it reminded me of a Secret Service detail. Kind of menacing, really. A caravan of these vehicles made way on a service road to the other end of the runway and stopped in front of an open hanger. It was all readied for Tigers press conference.

No attention to detail was left unattended. There was upbeat music playing, people were milling about, TV cameras were setting up in a long line against the back wall of the hanger. Still photographers roamed about looking for the best vantage point and print journalists readied their pads and tape recorders as they took their seats in front of the stage.

There was an energy in the air. Most distinct, in fact. The kind of electricity you feel in anticipation of something (or someone) unique and special happening. I had previously felt the Tiger factor at the Players Championship a year or two before. On a Tuesday, as Tiger was finishing his practice round, hundreds upon hundreds of spectators gathered near the practice green in anticipation of Tiger making his way off 18 green on his way to the clubhouse. It was like a rock concert had broken out at a golf tournament. People screaming, Tiger, Tigerhere, please sign thisoh, Tiger, pleaseover here, over here. Little kids yelling their heads off and people actually chanting, Ti-ger, Ti-ger, Ti-ger! You had to see it to believe it.

Well, you know how the media is, acting cool and all. No where near that level of exuberance. However, the same electricity was in the air. It was unmistakable. Im not afraid to admit it; I was jazzed up. I mean, I wasnt jumping around yelling Tiger or anything dumb like that, but, my eyes were wide open. I realized this wasnt the kind of thing that happened every day. It was a unique event and everyone knew it was unique. No matter how cool they acted.

As everyone took their seats, a rousing, pounding music video began to play on a huge screen behind the stage. Images of all the Nike Golf tour staff players dashed before our eyesgreat shots, fist pumps, huge smiles, steely-eyed stares. If this didnt get your heart pumping nothing would. The official Nike Whistle Stop Tour was about to begin.

Related Links:
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 3
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 2
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 1
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.