Sometimes in life, a persons reputation, or at least the way he is perceived, is changed literally overnight. Or in the case of Albert Woody Austin II, literally underwater.
On Day 2 of the 2007 Presidents Cup, Austin forever went from being thought of as a brooding, career PGA TOUR grinder to a quirky, late-blooming, star-in-the-making sensation. All in the matter of one swing of the club ' and one mighty splash in the water.
And he succeeded; though, far from the getting-the-ball-on-the-green kind of way.
His ball ended up going nowhere. Yet it was where his body went that had all those in attendance at Royal Montreal in stitches. See, Woody lost his balance after making the swing and then compounded the problem by stepping on a rock with his bare foot, leaving him no other option than to fall face first into the cold, Canadian water.
And with it came a flood of jokes from the fans, players and captains alike.
'It's funny,' said Retief Goosen later that day. 'For years he was known as the guy who banged his head against his putter. And now he's the guy who banged his head against the water.'
While still on the course that day, the Canadian fans enjoyed alternating chants of 'Marco' and 'Polo' as Austin made his way down the fairways. And on the greens, the usual screams of Get in the hole! were replaced with Get in the water!
Not sure he had much choice, but Woody took the moment and the onslaught of comments in perfect stride, even producing some of the best golf of the day by making three straight birdies on the final three holes to salvage a half point for the U.S. side. Afterwards, Woody began adding to his ever-growing legend.
Well, I don't think I look any worse than I always do. Scotty (Verplank) says I smell different, but I think, you know, everything else, I think I look just as ugly as I always do. But the whole idea of the shot was just to try to get it to the bank, because I felt like from the bank I had a chance to make three. I knew, deep down, knew I probably couldn't pull the shot off, explained Austin. But between wanting really badly to pull it off and having my caddie urge me on; and I'm going to get Brett for that for a while. He kept saying, You've got to try, you've got to try, you've got to try.
And try he did.
I was doing okay until I stepped on the rock and once I stepped on the rock, I lost my balance, he said.
I can only tell you how much the competitive fire burns in me. It didn't douse it. I was still fired up and ready to go.
So, too, were the jokes.
'You couldn't see who it was because his head was underwater,' said Steve Stricker afterwards. 'But you figured it had to be Woody.'
Added Vijay Singh, as he passed Woody in the interview room later the evening, Hey, Woody. The Russian judge gave you an 8.
Moments later, captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player gathered to announce their pairings for the following morning. Nicklaus announced his team for the second game on Saturday.
'I'm going with Phil Mickelson and Jacques Cousteau,' Nicklaus quipped.
It was his partner Mickelson who then gave him the moniker 'Aquaman.'
For the record, Austin finished the Presidents Cup with a 1-1-3 record, gaining 2 points for his American teammates in their decisive 19 - 14 victory. I have the mentality where I will do anything I can for my part, my teammates, whatever, Woody said.
For Austin, who just so happened to be sandwiched between Ernie Els and Tiger Woods as the recipient of the PGA TOURs rookie of the year award back in 1995, it put the cherry on top of what became his best year ever on TOUR.
A flawless final-round 62 at the St. Jude Championship in June earned him his third career victory and his $2.8 million in earnings more than doubled his previous high for a season.
And then there was a memorable showing at the PGA Championship, where he finished runner-up to champion Tiger Woods by two shots. It was also there that Austin garnered snickers from those in the media center after making comments about out playing Tiger in Fridays second round, a round which saw the world No. 1 fire a major championship record-tying round of 63 to Woodys 70. And he didnt back away from the comments.
People always say, `Are you intimidated by him (Woods)?'' Austin added. 'What, are we going to get in a fight? I'm not intimidated by him. I'm intimidated by the fact that I have a chance to win a golf tournament. I'm not intimidated by any other person. I'm intimidated by the golf.'
And apparently not intimidated by greenside water hazards.