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Observations on Tiger Woods

The Experience of Seeing a Legend Up Close at the PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Working in the world of golf is undoubtedly a joy, but traveling for it can be a mixed bag. This week, I experienced both the excitement and the exhaustion firsthand.

My journey to the PGA Championship began with a 4 a.m. alarm and a grueling six-hour travel itinerary from Boise to Louisville, with a layover in Minneapolis. Despite the early start and lengthy trip, my anticipation was sky-high. This event marked not only my first time covering a golf tournament in person for GOLF but also my first attendance at a major championship. Even with the less-than-ideal flight schedule, I would have gladly taken a Greyhound for this opportunity.

As I looked out the window during my flight, I contemplated the week ahead with enthusiasm:

  • Watching Scottie Scheffler in peak form.
  • Seeing Rory McIlroy launch his signature towering drives.
  • Hoping Brooks Koepka might secure back-to-back victories.

In the midst of my excitement, the thought of seeing Tiger Woods in person didn’t initially cross my mind. Although his 2019 Masters win is one of my cherished sports memories, my experience of watching Tiger has been more about his struggles than his victories. He was a mythic figure, appearing sporadically to remind us of his greatness.

But when Tiger walked into the press tent on Tuesday, it hit me. I had the chance to watch the greatest golfer of all time up close. This realization changed everything. I knew I had to seize the moment, as nothing in life is guaranteed, especially in Tiger’s injury-riddled career.

Early Wednesday morning, I trekked through the muddy slopes of Valhalla Golf Club to witness Tiger in action. Here are my key observations:

1. The Ultimate Grinder

Tiger arrived at Valhalla well-prepared, having already spent days familiarizing himself with the course. He starts his routine hours before tee time, waking up as early as 4 a.m. The physical demands of navigating the steep course are immense, especially for someone with his injuries. Yet, he remains undeterred. Watching him practice for hours, hitting 10-foot putts and playing a few holes, showcased his love for the grind. It’s inspiring to see his legendary competitiveness up close.

2. A Swing of Pure Smoothness

For someone with a fused back and a body full of metal, Tiger’s swing is astonishingly smooth. While his injuries have taken away some of his power, they have refined his technique. His swing’s tempo is mesmerizing, a testament to years of accrued wisdom. Watching him hit irons was a mix of awe and envy, knowing that no one can truly replicate his unique style. Yet, his elegance on the course will surely inspire countless hours of practice when I return home.

3. Mastering the Art of Fame

Tiger draws massive crowds even during early morning practice rounds. His ability to handle the constant attention with grace is remarkable. He responds to fans with calculated nods and waves, maintaining a balance between gratitude and focus. His composed demeanor under the spotlight is something to behold, a testament to his years of experience.

4. Glimpses of Greatness

The highlight of my time was watching Tiger play the 9th hole, a short par-4. He executed it flawlessly, from a perfect drive to a precise wedge shot that landed within 10 feet of the pin. It was a glimpse of the Tiger who dominated the sport. His belief in his ability to win is palpable, and it’s clear that he still has moments of elite performance. While skepticism about his chances of winning another major remains, his unwavering confidence is infectious. Tiger’s belief in himself is the driving force that keeps him, and his fans, coming back for more.

Following Tiger this morning left me with numerous insights, but the most profound was his enduring belief in his capabilities. This experience has made a believer out of me, too.

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