Wednesday, June 18th, 2008...1:40 am
Tiger at Torrey
I’m indifferent to Tiger Woods the person. His commercials are blah and I find him kind of whiney in interviews and press conferences. I LOVE Tiger Woods the golfer. I dig his competitiveness, determination and his perfect stance and alignment over the ball is, well, just perfect.
When I lived in San Diego I once went to the Accenture Match Play Tournament at La Costa which was a few miles from my office in Carlsbad. The crowds are pretty sparse at the event as it’s much more of a made for television type of deal. I found myself following Tiger one afternoon with a gallery of less than 100 people. For at least a five hole stretch, as Tiger destroyed a funky European, I was within yards of Tiger on every single one of his shots. I must have shouted his name dozens of times between shots and threw out a bunch of “YOU DA MAN’S” after his drives. Not only did Tiger never acknowledge me but his intensity and focus were overpowering. His breathing was at the cadence of Darth Vader! In fact, I’ve never come into contact with another person in my life where I’ve sensed that same feeling of mental strength. Watching the Nike Golf commercial that aired over the weekend kept me fresh on why I was pulling for Tiger all weekend.
Another thing I did when I lived in San Diego was play golf at Torrey Pines. When I first started my job as a college sports web editor my off days were during the week. I didn’t know many people in San Diego and the ones that I did seemed to be tied up during the day so I often found myself heading to Torrey Pines on my own to play a round. I remember when I first received my San Diego Resident Card which allowed me to play the course for $30 instead of $150. I never switched over my driver’s license so it was the only thing in my wallet that proved I was an official cali dude. There were many Tuesday afternoons in the dead of the warm winter that I spent at Torrey Pines. The third hole (downhill par 3 over the canyon) is my favorite hole that I have ever played.
During one of my rounds at Torrey Pines I was walking down the fairway, parallel to the Pacific, as the sun was setting on the back nine of the south course. I was with my roommate Jon and a middle aged guy who we hadn’t really spoken to that much during the round. As we walked to the green we began to chat and he asked us if we played the course often. He told us that he visits San Diego for business once each quarter and he plans his whole trip around playing a round of golf at TP. As the conversation died down, and the cool breeze from the ocean rised up, he just looked at us in jealous amazement that we could come back tomorrow to play the course again while he was on a flight back to the Midwest where he would day dream for the next four months until the next time he came back to the course.
So last week I was obviously pumped to watch this year’s US Open at Torrey Pines. I DVR’d the first few rounds and then slouched on my couch late at night and day dreamed about San Diego in jealous amazement much like the Midwestern Willy Loman. I watched the telecasters and news media befuddled by San Diego’s idiosyncrasies — June gloom, Black’s Beach, hang gliders and the assortment of ridiculously scary military aircraft from Camp Pendelton fly out to sea.
The tournament really heated up on the back nine on Saturday just as my cable went down from a thunder storm. Luckily I was at an apartment party later that night (actually a golf pros and tennis hoes themed party) where I got to watch the replay of the round. To see Tiger’s explosion of emotion after an eagle at 13th and then his grin of amused luck after chipping in on 17th and you just kind of knew there was no stopping him. Yet on both Sunday and Monday he was down one shot going to the 18th hole. He was chasing a jolly journeymen who had no business going shot for shot with Tiger and deep down even he knew that he had no chance. I was sitting on my couch with my parents on Sunday when Tiger lined up his putt to tie. My mom liked Rocco as the sentimental pick and my dad liked Rocco because he is an everyday kind of guy. I didn’t much think about who I was rooting for because I was pretty damn sure Tiger would nail the putt. He’s the best who has ever played the game. He’s super human. Of course he made the putt.
Then on Monday nobody gave Rocco a chance as he was up against a monster. Yet somehow it seemed like destiny was on his side and you wondered if he could pull off the 16 over 1 upset. But Tiger is at his best when he struggles and has to grind. When his swing or his putter betrays him and he solely relies on mental grit. He actually somehow wills himself to victory. When it was all over and Tiger had won it seemed almost inevitable and that made watching all of it even better.
I’m not sure how many times I’ll witness true awe-inspiring greatness in my life but I’ve been lucky enough to experience Tiger Woods and Torrey Pines (from both near and far).