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Confessions of a Weekend Golfer: My Day with Tiger

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

(continued from page 1)

As we walked the course he became more and more comfortable and more willing to converse. You could tell he was making an effort to be friendly. And it was appreciated. He told a number of stories about his recent British Open victory and about some of his hole in one experiences.

I asked if he ever got nervous playing in front of people (as that was on my mind). He smiled and said, "No, it's my job." We kibitzed about his playing golf with his good friend Michael Jordan—whom I had recently interviewed and played golf with—and he smiled and said that Michael always had a cigar in his mouth while playing golf with him. Do you ever smoke cigars, I asked? "Sure, I have one every two or three months, with Michael."

Tiger's game, as we have all seen on TV, is incredible. Standing next to him, I was able to see and hear his tee shots. First, there was a loud pounding noise, then the flight of a little white ball as it sailed off into the sky, rising higher and higher, until it disappeared from view. I never saw it land—it was too far away.

Once he was in the fairway, his second shot would be to the green. He was regularly on in two, even the par 5s. When the ball hit the green, it would stop. Not roll forward or spin back. Just stop! I found that amazing.

Each of his wood and iron shots to the green were pin high. Six feet left, eight feet right, but always pin high! His swing is so calibrated; he was hardly ever long or short. This day, he shot a 6-under 66. He missed, by my count, five six- to 10-foot putts by one inch, always left. Had he been putting as he usually does, he would have played to a course record. (As it is, the second day of the Buick Open, he shot an 11-under 61, tying the course record.)

Tiger ended up finishing second to Vijay Singh, not bad after winning the British Open 10 days earlier.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the day was on the tee of the par-4, 340-yard 12th hole. Up until this point, each of my tee shots had made it onto the fairway or first cut of rough.

I confidently stepped up to the tee and drilled a low line drive left. It hit a male spectator in his mid-20s in his rear end. I was totally embarrassed! Tiger commented, "Marvin, you really smoked that guy's butt." We all laughed, but I was concerned that I may have hurt him. I immediately went over to the young man, who reassured me he was not hurt. I went back later to talk to him, but could not find him.

My game that day was uneven—meaning I had many bad shots. So many that I was able to earn the sympathy of the crowd. On the par-5, 457-yard 15th hole, my third shot landed about 80 yards front-right of the green on a steep, side hill. A tough lie. As the crowd watched, I hit a perfect chip shot that sailed high into the air and landed on the green just left of the pin. To the other golfers, a routine shot, but it was me—and I got loud applause from the gallery. We all laughed.

When the round was over, we all shook hands on the 18th green. I can't explain the relief I felt and satisfaction that "I did it." Through many rough and embarrassing moments, I walked 18 holes with the quiet giant of the sport.

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