PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. ' Miguel Angel Carballo was the second alternate on the eve of the Honda Classic when the Argentine rookie sent out a message to his fans, I need a miracle.
He wound up getting Tiger Woods.
Carballo, a 32-year-old who finally made it onto the PGA Tour this year, was thrust into the spotlight at PGA National on Thursday when Ian Poulter withdrew with an illness, and he took his spot in the marquee group of Woods and Lee Westwood, two players formerly No. 1 in the world.
It was a day Carballo wont forget, even if he could do without the score.
Carballo came undone on the par-3 17th hole when his tee shot went into the water, and his next shot flew the green and plugged into the back of the bunker, leaving him no choice but to chip sideways into the sand. He took quadruple-bogey 7 and shot 79.
Westwood had a 70, while Woods opened with a 71.
None of the three us had a good day, Carballo said. Obviously, my day was worse because I hit more bad shots.
Carballo, who qualified for the tour by finishing 10th on the Nationwide Tour money list, already has played five tournaments this year, making three cuts with his best finish a tie for 29th at Pebble Beach.
He tried to Monday qualify and missed with a 72, then decided to hang around to practice before leaving next week for the Puerto Rico Open. On Wednesday, he was hearing rumors that Poulter was sick.
He looked at the tee times and realized Poulter was playing with Woods and Westwood.
Oh, wow, he said.
His manager, Gustavo Piovano, had arranged for a massage at the spa Thursday morning when they saw Poulter leaving PGA National with his bags packed.
Official word arrived a short time later, and Carballo was on his way.
I didnt know anything about him, Woods said. Westy and I didnt know if he played the European Tour or our tour. But he was thrust into a situation Im sure hes not really familiar with, and he handled himself great. Its a tough deal out there. On a golf course where you can be just a little bit off, scores add up quickly.
He wasnt the first player to be among the frenzy that accompanies Woods.
Louis Oosthuizen, in his first time playing in America, was paired with Woods at Doral in 2006 for a World Golf Championship. His clubs didnt arrive until the night before the opening round. Oosthuizen, of course, went on to win a British Open at St. Andrews.
Marc Cayeux of Zimbabwe made his American debut at Firestone in 2005 in a World Golf Championship. Just his luck, he burned a quarter-size hole inside his left hand during a barbecue a week before, showed up at Firestone and was in Woods group. He was so nervous that he put a range ball got into his bag, and he accidentally put it in play.
At least this was a regular PGA Tour event, and it wasnt the first one for Carballo. Still, it was quite a way to start the week.
He said he was nervous the first shot and the first few holes, but the rest of the day was calm, even with so many people. He was asked what he could take away from being in such a group.
They dont give away shots, Carballo said.