Tiger Woods was coming to Thailand to play in our Asian Tour ‘Honda Classic’ at Thai country club in March of ’97. I had no idea who this guy was – i had heard the name before and he was starting to become famous. On the Monday i played a practice round and saw that there were a few other famous names in the field. I was intent on beating them and i would have a game with this guy named Tiger Woods.
The purse was 300k $ and i found out that Mr. tiger was payed that to show up. I played in the group in front of him on Saturday and watched him drive the par 4 green on ten and 3 putt. I was even more determined to get a game with him.
Tiger shot a good number on Saturday, but i was still in second tied with Zaw Moe from Myanmar at 10 under. So we are the final group on Sunday. We are almost 2 hours on a bus from downtown Bkk to get to the course and he arrives on a helicopter.
What a show Sunday, 50 meters down the fairway on the first tee are 100′s of photographers. The gallery must have been 12-15k people – all watching Tiger and Zaw and me. What a day!
I hit my second close on the first hole and rolled it in for birdie – cutting his lead to 4 shots. Tiger started Sunday at 15 under par, Zaw and i started at -10.
I must say that it was like walking in a bubble with so many people around. I couldn’t scratch my ass or pick my nose. The marshals would hold up their ‘Quiet’ signs and create a tunnel thru the crowds to the next tee box for us.
I was a seasoned professional by now, but what really thru me off was the huge gallery. We’ve all seen Olazabal look 6-7 times at his target and i was a wee bit the same with the scoring shots. For the life of me i could’nt focus on my target. It was 10 – 20 people deep around the greens with their umbrellas up with a rainbow of colors – it was really tough to find the whit flags. I’ve never played with such a gallery before. I would look up again for the 2nd or 3rd – 5th time and lose the flagstick! This made it truly difficult for me to focus in and hit my approach shots close.
One reason why i always wore the large Titliest visors – so i could focus on my ball with the green grass background and not see people milling about. That afternoon i dropped way back and finished in tenth place, but what an experience. Tiger was very gracious and we enjoyed a good chat all the way around. Walking down the 18th on Sunday, Zaw, Tiger and I together approaching the green came a huge eruption of cheers, claps, whistles – a standing ovation from the grandstand everyone on the clubhouse veranda. The energy was palpable, i felt shivers thru out my body. What a day!
3years later i am in Taipei, Taiwan for a ‘Johnnie Walker Event’ on pro am Wednesday. I am on the practice green and Tiger approaches with now, his huge entourage. He has now become Super Star.! I looked up and said “how ya doing today?” – he responds “Hi greg, how are you?”
We carried on a chat for 5 mins or so, i mentioned the 13th hole where he could spin it back into the water off the green as he did the week before in Valldarama, Spain at the European Championships. Still very friendly with big heart. But he remembered me from 3 years before. WOW !