Hanging with Tiger Phil and Geoff

By Mercer BaggsAugust 17, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill. -- Around 8:10 a.m. local time Thursday, Chris DiMarco, Michael Campbell and Lee Westwood began their opening round in the 88th PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club.
There were close to a hundred people on hand to watch them, which was pretty good considering the time, the fact that this wasnt exactly a marquee grouping, and that the 10th hole is actually located in Wisconsin.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had a few conversations Thursday.
After they all teed off, about one of those 100 continued with them down the fairway.
Everyone else was waiting for the 8:30 group. The one with British Open champion Tiger Woods, Masters champion Phil Mickelson and U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.
By the time the three showed up, the crowd had more than doubled. There were a solid number of fans on hand to see Mickelson and Ogilvy birdie the hole, and watch Woods make bogey.
But, given the hype surrounding this particular threesome, it wasnt quite what was anticipated.
'There was nobody out there,' Mickelson said. 'It was nice and quiet.'
I think most of them got lost, couldnt find No. 10, cracked Woods. Its way the hell out there.
He aint lying. Captain Kirks never traveled that far.
Amy Mickelson was out there, with periscope in hand. She was joined by a few others, including Phils swing instructor, Rick Smith.
I spotted Tigers wife, Elin, just after the group had teed off on 15. I didnt see my next shot until they teed off on 16.
As the round progressed, the number of people increased, with probably a thousand or so watching them on each hole ' and that was just inside the ropes.
Actually, there were around 75-100 ' including media, tournament officials and security ' inside the ropes, which is a ridiculous amount of people. Its the largest gathering Ive ever been a part of, and, according to a couple of other writers, it was the biggest group they could recall since Annika Sorenstam played in the 2003 Colonial.
I heard the people in the gallery say Jesus Christ so much when we all walked past them that I thought the Lord Himself was following the group.
For the first three or four holes, I wondered who was guarding the media center. Somebody could have picked it up and run away with it, joked Ogilvy, who had his ball almost stepped on a couple of times by photographers and reporters.
Ducking in and out of the ropes throughout the day, I was surprised to find that the crowd actually seemed a little subdued over the first few holes.
Perhaps it was because of the early a.m. start, or maybe because of the starting locations proximity to the clubhouse, but the fans were rather reserved.
It picked up a little at the par-4 12th, when Ogilvy and Woods each hit approach shots inside of 5 feet, and it got a little louder on each hole, with each good shot thereafter.
But it wasnt over-the-top. It wasnt a raucous scene. If anything, it was appropriate and respectful. The fans did a great job of being a part of the show, not the show itself. They reacted the way they should have, when they should have.
Once they made the turn, though, the crowd multiplied like Gremlins.
The back nine was little bit different, said Woods. I think most of them waited for us to come around and took the lazier approach.
With beer sales having started at 7:45, and with the increase in temperature, the gallery became more vocal.
Yet, unlike in the final round of the Open Championship, when cell phone cameras clicked incessantly, there werent many distractions. The only time Tiger had to back away from a shot was when a kid dropped his water bottle as he was preparing to hit his tee shot on the third hole.
Tigers caddie, Steve Williams, glared in the direction of the offender, but somehow managed to restrain himself from pummeling the boy.
As for the crowd's allegiance, Woods received more applause than the other two when his name was announced on the first tee. But there were more 'Go Phil's throughout the course of the day than there were 'Go Tiger's.
'And one 'Go Joe,'' said Ogilvy, who still gets confused by some fans for PGA TOUR player Joe Ogilvie. 'I felt right at home with that.'
At least that fan kind of knew who he was. Before starting his round, a woman asked her husband, 'Who's the guy in the green?'
That would be your reigning U.S. Open champion, ma'am.
Geoff Ogilvy held his own against the top 2 players in the world in round 1.
Ogilvy, the major champion, did manage to get a proper mention here and there, and there was even an Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! shout from one of his countrymen after he stuffed his approach shot at 12.
I didnt have the amount of fans that they had, Ogilvy said, But I had a few legitimate fans out there.
While the number of patrons increased after the first nine, the number of working media decreased dramatically inside the ropes, which can be attributed to two things. One, it was lunch time. And a true member of the press never misses a free meal. Two, we were headed away from the clubhouse, back into the nether regions.
Though not hungry, I, being a summa cum laude graduate, was somehow not smart enough to figure out the latter.
Throughout the day, there was very little interaction between the three players. They all shook hands underneath a tent before the start of the round, and that was about it until the end. On the opening tee, Woods stood on the right side, while Mickelson hovered about on the left ' much like when they were Ryder Cup partners a few years ago.
When Tiger and Phil did speak, they talked about schedule, Ryder Cup, just some stuff we have coming up, according to Mickelson.
But that was to be expected. Woods and Mickelson said as much in their respective pre-tournament press conferences.
This is a major championship, and these three are here to compete and win, not ham it up and share stories. Tiger talked as infrequently to Ogilvy as he did to Mickelson. Even on the 12th tee, which crisscrosses the 15th tee, Woods barely acknowledged Stewart Cink as he walked by and said something to him.
There were no outward signs of hostility, no ill will, no gamesmanship.
On the whole, they all played well, but not overly so, each shooting a modest 3-under-par 69. 'We all played OK,' said Mickelson. 'We all left some shots out there, but we all put ourselves in good position heading into the next three rounds.'
Woods had the best shot of the day when he nearly jarred a 3-iron with his second shot on the par-5 fifth. On the same hole, Mickelson made a phenomenal escape from the left trees, nearly advancing his second shot through a narrow path onto the green.
That was something, Ogilvy said in compliment of Mickelsons shot. I never would have tried that. Phil chooses clubs in a way that I cant see. But he has the ability to see things differently than I do.
When they all tapped in for par on the ninth green, the three shook hands with one another, and with each others caddies. Tiger looked at Phil and said simply, Good round; nice playing.
They then piled into vans that shuttled them back towards the clubhouse to sign their scorecards.
It was at that point that I realized that I was one of three reporters still around. After hanging with Tiger, Phil and Geoff all day, they had abandoned me. There was no media shuttle. And there was no Scotty to beam me back in.
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