We all have our Tiger moments.
We all have stored some specific Tiger Woods memories that emerge from a crowd of Tiger Woods memories.
Like that time during the 2015 PGA Championship, Woods cutting a reflective figure against a perfect blue backdrop, arms crossed, staring into the horizon … or maybe, on the verge of a missing the cut in a third consecutive major, thinking about jumping into Lake Michigan. It was difficult to tell which.
Or that time at the 2003 Bay Hill Invitational when you were close enough to him you hoped he didn’t give you whatever touch of death he was battling on his way to a Jordanesque, bone-soaked, 11-stroke triumph.
|One Time with Tiger|
|Brendon de Jonge|
Damn, Tiger was something else.
Maybe those two mean nothing to you. But you have yours. You likely have many.
But what if? What if one of those memories was playing beside him one time in a PGA Tour event? Just that one time for you to hold onto forever. How special would that be?
To answer that, you can ask Keith Fergus. Or Don Pooley. Or Omar Uresti. Or Nick Dougherty. Or Scott Brown.
There are lots of players you could ask. How many? Tough to give an exact number. The Tour keeps head-to-head stats for players, dating back to the late-90s. They are helpful, but fallible. It’s safe to say, however, that there are less than 50 players who fall into this category: One Tour round, one time with Tiger.
Anyone who remembers watching Woods when he turned pro would view this list with nostalgia.
Those players who got their one time with Tiger early in his career were, for the most part, well into theirs. People like Fergus, Pooley and the Rinker brothers, Lee and Larry.
Those who got a singular up-close-and-personal encounter during his prime years, which, really, lasted the better part of a decade, include the likes of Grant Waite, Bradley Hughes, Dougherty and Arron Oberholser.
There are those who caught him in that post-scandal, pre-yips phase. Players like Brendan Steele, Brendon de Jonge and Robert Garrigus.
And there are those who have played once with him over the last couple of years – the last couple he’s played. Those who, frankly, were the better player in their twosome. Those like Zac Blair and Brown.
These names don’t elicit awe, nor should they. These aren’t guys who played with Woods in the winner’s category during the first two rounds of an event or time after time on the weekends.
These are guys who got one shot at Tiger Woods, the greatest player of his generation, if not all time. It’s not their names that matter, it’s their stories.
Each story is unique, because it involves individuals and their perspectives, but there are commonalities: Crowd chaos and sounds, chief among them.
You’ve probably witnessed firsthand what it’s like to watch Woods at an event. And even if you haven’t, you have a pretty good idea: saturation of people, jockeying for position, screams of those trying to be noticed, and a chain reaction of movement: Tiger hits shots, crowd scurries, playing competitor be damned.
“Unruly,” one said.
“It’s like you’re playing on his turf,” said another.
“Like playing with Nicklaus,” said the player who also added, “He reminded me of the Beatles coming to America in '64.”
And those sounds, they weren’t in reference to the crowds, but rather about that way in which Woods struck a ball.
“Like nothing else I’ve ever heard,” said one.
“I’ll always remember the sounds of him hitting a golf ball,” said another. “I’ve never heard anyone else make that sound.”
As multiple players we interviewed said following a Tiger-struck ball, “I can’t hit that shot.”
Who did we interview? Many of the names listed here, and a few others.
Why? Because these guys got to play one official PGA Tour round with Tiger Woods. Not two or 10. One. That’s an irreplaceable instance that fewer than 50 people can claim. Maybe you view these guys as a has-been or a never-was. Doesn’t matter. They got their one time with Tiger. And when you speak to them, they remember every detail. They remember what they saw, what they heard, what they felt.
Some wanted to just stay out of his way. Many remember his signature intimidation tactic: Arrive late to the first tee, make you listen to the enormous applause, get the no-look handshake.
Several also remember paying more attention to what he was doing than what they should have been doing. They recognized the moment. They realized, Hey, this might be my one and only time to play with Tiger Freaking Woods. Screw the score, let’s enjoy these hours.
Of course, others viewed it differently: This is my forever chance to tell the world I beat Tiger Woods, head-to-head. And, some can claim that.
One time. One round. One shot at Tiger Woods.
It’s their Tiger moment. And they shared them with us.