The year Tiger roared : Behind the scenes of a season to remember – Excerpt
Editor’s note: We all know the kind of year Tiger Woods had in 2000, but in this book excerpt, we get a peek at Tiger behind the scenes. Reprinted with permission from Raising the Bar: The Championship Years of Tiger Woods, [C]2000, by Tim Rosaforte, St. Martin’s Press, 310 pages, $24.95.
An assistant professional named Brian Gaffney remembers the day he played a round with Tiger Woods.
“I went up to Valhalla to play a practice round a week before the PGA Championship,” says Gaffney, a 30-year-old assistant from North Palm Beach, Fla. “The golf course was open just to players, and as I was teeing off on the back nine, somebody said, ‘Hey, did you know that Tiger Woods is here?’ I get to about the 12th hole and first some maintenance workers and then some PGA officials come up to me and ask: ‘Did you ask to play with Tiger?’
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, sure. The last thing Tiger Woods wants to do is play a practice round and watch somebody else slap it around.’ Later on, somebody else tells me, ‘You’ve got to; he really loves to play with other guys.’ So now I’m thinking I should do it. I go over to the first tee, to the putting green there, and wait for him to come by. I was more nervous then than I was the entire week of the PGA. Tiger drives up in a cart, just him and his caddie. I walk over, so he stops. I said, ‘Hi, I’m Brian Gaffney, a club pro. Would it be OK to play a few holes?’ He looked at me, paused for a second, smiled, and said, ‘Sure, let’s go.’
“I ran back to the putting green to get my balls and met them on the first tee. Out of respect I said, ‘Look, I’m only going to play one ball. You don’t have to worry about me holding you up.’ His caddie says, ‘Good; we play one ball, and we play fast.’ The first hole or two I was so nervous, but Tiger made me feel so comfortable. He asked me how I got in the tournament, and I told him by tieing for eighth in the PGA Club Pro championship. He stared at me a second and said, ‘You know, that’s good playing. Good going.’ I couldn’t figure out what to say to him. What am I supposed to say, ‘How are you playing?’
“I went over to him on the fourth tee and said, ‘Thanks, Tiger, for allowing me to do this; this is a real treat for me.’ He just said, ‘Now let’s have some fun.’ I tell you what, he was the nicest guy in the world.”
Be careful what you wish for
Michael Campbell had resurrected his career with three victories and had been trying to pump himself up before his first-round match with Tiger in the WGC-Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship.
According to Campbell’s agent, Andrew Ramsey, as Tiger stepped to the first tee, he got in Campbell’s face and said without anyone hearing: “I heard you want a piece of me–now you’ve got me.”
Campbell never recovered after Tiger’s birdie-birdie start, losing 5 and 4.
More match-play motivation
“Here’s a story that I’ve never told before,” said Tiger’s coach, Butch Harmon, at the beginning of the 2000 season. “We’re at Pumpkin Ridge for the ’96 U.S. Amateur. Tiger was five down after 18. His posture was messed up. We fixed that, and I was thinking to myself, ‘OK, I’ve got to tell him something. I know he’s ticked off,’ so I put my arm around him and said, ‘Have you noticed that every time Steve Scott wins a hole, that cute little girlfriend of his is laughing at you?’
“Tiger turned to me and said, ‘You noticed that, too?’ I knew that was all I had to say. I remember after he made that putt on the 35th hole, he sprinted past me going to the 18th tee. He slapped me on the butt and said, ‘She ain’t smilin’ now!’ He never missed a step.”
How’d he do that?
Tiger is so adroit with his golf swing that he can give ball-launch readings without even looking at the monitor, which measures clubhead speed, launch angle and spin rate. Engineers have left test sessions spellbound at Tiger’s ability to know exactly where the clubhead is at impact, and what unmarked prototype ball he is using just by feel–and sometimes sound.
One session at Isleworth the week of the Honda Classic was the most memorable. “After five to six shots, he’d start playing games,” says Nike’s Kel Devlin. “He’d say, ‘OK, I’m going to cut one here, so my spin rate will be 400 r.p.m.’s more than if I hit a draw.’ He’d wind up, and it would be 400 r.p.m.’s more. He’d hit a shot and be within 100 r.p.m.’s of what the ball launched at. Every once in a while we’d slip in a different ball. He’d say, ‘That was a different ball. It felt harder.’ Or he’d hit one off the bottom of the club and he’d say, ‘My swing speed was 128 m.p.h., but since it was off the bottom of the club, the spin rate was probably 3,100.’ He’d be nailing it.
“Then he said, ‘OK, I’m going to crank it up, give it 5 m.p.h. more swing speed.’ Sure enough, it would register 5 m.p.h. more in swing speed. Everybody sitting there was dumbfounded. There was a road on the back of the range at Isleworth. We asked him, ‘How far to the road?’ He said 290, and then he cranks on it and flies it right to the middle of the road. Then he says, ‘OK, I’m going to hit it over the road now,’ and he bombs it an extra five yards over the road.
“He’s got so much control on what he does with the golf club, it’s incredible. He’s worked so hard at getting the right launch angle and the right spin rate on the driver that it’s made him a better driver. He launches it at 12 degrees with a spin rate of 2,800, which is perfect. Add 130-m.p.h. clubhead speed and it translates to 300 yards pretty easy.”
It’s over before it’s over
Mark O’Meara was on the driving range the first day of the 2000 U.S. Open, knowing that nobody had a chance to beat Tiger Woods. O’Meara had played practice rounds with Tiger before the Open, and Woods had missed one shot. One. O’Meara was telling Hank Haney and Bernie Nicholls about it. Haney is O’Meara’s coach; Nicholls is a former National Hockey League star.
“Johnny Miller came up to me on the 16th fairway on Wednesday,” O’Meara said. ” ‘So how is the kid playing?’ he asked me. I told him, ‘Johnny, I’ve played the tour for 20 years now, and Tiger is the best player I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t have the best record yet, but he’s already the greatest player of all time.’
“So Johnny says, ‘But how is he hitting it?’
“I said, ‘Didn’t you hear me? This guy has everything. He drives it longer and straighter than anyone in history. He can hit it high or low. He can hit cuts and draws. He has more imagination around the greens than almost anyone. And he’s putting great right now. How can he lose?’ “
On Thursday, early in the telecast, Miller let viewers know they were in for something special–what would become a 15-stroke victory. “He’s going to do something this week that people will be talking about 100 years from now,” Miller said. “This is going to be the week that he says, ‘See you, guys.’ “
RELATED ARTICLE: How to get your print of Tiger with his trophies
Sales from prints of the cover photo of Tiger Woods with his major-championship trophies will benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation Inc. Framed and matted prints will be available exclusively from Famous Photography Inc. for $199, $299 and $349, not including shipping and handling. Visit www.famousphotography.com or phone 800-398-3116.
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