If he weren't someone who carries out his missions like a
Saturday-morning action hero, Tiger Woods could have been
expected to hit the wall at last week's B.C. Open. The B.C. is
the PGA Tour at its least glamorous. The tournament is played in
Endicott, a suburb of economically depressed Binghamton in
upstate New York, at En-Joie Golf Club, an austere public track
high on hospitality but low on ambience. "Life looks hard around
here," said Woods after cruising around town in the Ford
Explorer provided by the tournament.
Woods came to Endicott overgolfed and nearly overwhelmed by his
burgeoning celebrity. Counting the U.S. Amateur, in which he
played 164 holes in six days, Woods was beginning his fifth
straight week of competition. His most recent outing had been a
demoralizing tie for fifth at the Quad City Classic in Coal
Valley, Ill., where he lost a three-stroke lead in the final
round. In addition to the self-induced pressure of trying to
earn his Tour card, Woods has had to contend with a crush of
interviews, book deals, business propositions and autograph
seekers. Well-mannered, with a flashbulb smile, Woods has become
the Fresh Prince of golf, but while trudging through the hallway
of the Binghamton Regency early last week, he felt more like a
stale knight errant. "This is my house," he said facetiously.
"Do you like my house? It's got a lot of rooms. It's got maids.
It's got elevators. The only problem is I have to move into
another one just like it every week."
Yet the kid is reveling in his new life as a pro. "It's been a
blur," he says of the last few weeks. "Some of it has been a
shock, but this is what I've prepared for, and the upside is way
bigger than the downside."
MONDAY: Woods has a way of turning negatives into positives. The
final-round debacle at Quad City was put into a healthy
perspective at a Sunday-night dinner with his father, Earl,
swing coach Butch Harmon, manager Hughes Norton, and best friend
Bryon Bell, also 20 and a premed student at UC San Diego. "By
dessert we were laughing about how bad I blew it," Woods says.
"What I did is part of a learning process. I've done it before.
If that's my last time, great. But it probably won't be. In
golf, you lose more than you win."
September 29, 1996
Before leaving Coal Valley, Woods says goodbye to his father,
who has traveled with him since the Amateur but is now returning
home to Cypress, Calif. Tiger flies to Binghamton on a chartered
jet--he will probably lease his own soon--with Norton and Clarke
Jones, another agent from International Management Group. Once
he has checked into a 10th-floor suite at the Regency, he works
out at a local health club. At 6'2", Woods weighs only 158
pounds, but there is nothing frail about him. With broad
shoulders, prominent biceps and a 28-inch waist, he resembles
Thomas Hearns, the fighter. Woods breezes through multiple sets
of incline presses with 65-pound barbells and does squats with
as much as 250 pounds. He ends the workout with 500 crunches to
gird his lower back against the forces of the explosive rotation
in his swing. "I'm stronger than I look," he says with pride
while posing for photos with giddy health club employees.
TUESDAY: After 10 hours of sleep Woods gets up early to get his
first look at the En-Joie course, but a heavy rain floods the
layout and it is closed to practice rounds. In the afternoon
Woods and his agents meet with Nike executives, who bring
several boxes of apparel. Woods selects some two-tone shirts
with block color patterns. The shirts could become part of the
Swoosh 18 line Nike is preparing for him. One end of the living
room in Woods's suite is strewn with boxes of shirts, slacks,
sweaters and shoes, the other with a half-dozen putters that he
compulsively uses to stroke balls at table legs.
After the meeting Woods is philosophical. "Sometimes it's hard
to remember that I'm calling the shots," he says. "Butch has
already told me I have to be strong enough to say no and tell
people who are working for me what to do, including him. In a
way I've gone from being a college sophomore to a mini-CEO. It's
kind of hard. I mean, I'm 20 years old. But I know it's the way
things have to be or my life will be a mess."
WEDNESDAY: Norton and Jones leave in the morning. Norton will
return on Sunday to accompany Woods to Orlando, where he will
finally get a look at his new house, a villa at Isleworth where
his neighbors are Arnold Palmer, Mark McCormack and Mark O'Meara
as well as Shaquille O'Neal, Ken Griffey Jr. and Wesley Snipes.
Woods also plans to test drive a Lexus SC400, a coupe that
appeals to him because, he says, it is understated yet powerful.
"And the trunk is big enough to hold my golf clubs," he says.
But for now, for the first time since before the Amateur, he is
on the road alone.
Woods confesses that he doesn't really feel like a pro, or rich,
despite the reported $60 million worth of deals he has struck
with Nike and Titleist. All the money goes into the recently
formed Tiger Woods Inc., of which he is chairman and his father
is president. Although Woods pays himself a salary, he says a
$10 Nassau still seems like a big-money game. He confesses that
in pretournament shoot-outs--he won the one at Quad City--he
grinds hard to make birdies because they pay $100 each. "You
know when I feel like a pro?" he says. "On one-foot tap-ins. I
used to kind of one-hand them in. Now when I start to do that I
stop and think, Hey, this is money."
Before his only practice round at En-Joie, which will come
during the pro-am, Woods goes to the range. He is friendly but
low key with the other players, aware that he is constantly
being judged. So far his closest confidants are Davis Love III,
who also works with Harmon, and Woody Austin, last year's PGA
Tour Rookie of the Year, with whom Woods has played several
By the time the pro-am is over, Woods, between learning the
course, helping his amateur playing partners and signing
autographs, is bushed. Back at the Regency he plops down on the
couch with his usual takeout from McDonald's: quarter pounder
with cheese, fries and a strawberry shake. He turns on the TV
and watches the Atlanta Braves versus the Houston Astros. "I
loved baseball," he says, getting into the game by guessing the
pitch and location of Braves ace Greg Maddux's deliveries. A
little later Woods is ready to call it a day. "I know one
thing," he says, closing his eyes. "When I get my Tour card,
I'll never play five weeks in a row again." He is in bed by 9:30
p.m., almost 12 hours in advance of his starting time the next
THURSDAY: Whatever inertia Woods might have felt earlier in the
week, he is ready when the bell rings. On his first hole he
makes a 10-footer for a birdie. On his 14th hole, the 565-yard,
par-5 5th, Woods smashes two drivers into a strong wind to reach
the front fringe, but then mishits a six-iron chip and pushes
the 12-footer for birdie. Angry, he snaps his fist against his
thigh and curses. He birdies the next hole and doesn't mishit a
shot the rest of the way. After a 68 that leaves him two strokes
off the lead, Woods says, "I got mad back there for a reason. I
could feel myself getting complacent, probably because I've been
on the road so long. I had to snap out of it and use anger for
some energy. I did the same thing at lunch during the final at
the Amateur when I was five down, throwing my hat around and
swearing. If you do it right, you can channel the anger."
Woods signs autographs for a four-deep crowd of mostly young
people that includes many African-Americans. One teenage girl
yells, "Tiger, I love you!" When Woods looks up, her girlfriend
says, "Oh, my god, he looked at you!" Later, when Woods gets
into his car to drive away, a man in his 30s knocks on the
window and asks for an autograph. Woods refuses, saying he is
finished signing for the day. "Come on, be a man," the fan
insists. Woods says no, and the man calls out, "A------," as
Tiger drives away.
"You can't really win," Woods says. "I'm going to get ripped.
That's part of it. I know that since I've come out here, my skin
has gotten a lot tougher."
FRIDAY: Woods, a champion sleeper, gets in 12 hours of Z's
before his 1:39 p.m. starting time. Because of a fog delay he
doesn't go off until nearly 3. When he three-putts twice in the
first seven holes, he doesn't seem agitated. "It was not the
time to get angry," he says later. "The greens had so many spike
marks I had to laugh. I decided to lag all my putts the rest of
On the back nine Woods finishes with an explosion, birdieing the
last three holes for a 66. It puts him at eight under, three
strokes behind leader Pete Jordan. With a per-round scoring
average of just over 68 since turning pro, Woods's game has been
difficult to criticize. Distance control with his irons, Woods's
bugaboo at the last two Masters, has been exemplary. "Because
I'm doing it every day with no distractions from school, my
understanding of how to play is increasing," he says. "One of
the reasons I wasn't good at Tour events before is I could never
get into a rhythm and a flow. Now I'm in a nice pattern, and I
have good feel for distance."
SATURDAY: Because of Woods the B.C. draws its largest crowd
ever, with people outside the grounds holding up I NEED TICKETS
signs. Woods finishes with another 66 and remains three shots
behind the leaders. Yet he is not happy, and after a trip to the
media tent, he calls Harmon for advice. "It's the same stuff,"
Woods says later. "My club face position at the top was shut.
It's something I will probably fight for the rest of my life."
Rushing out to the range to get in some practice before dark,
Woods encounters Patrick Burke, who will play with him on
Sunday. "Hey, I saved your butt," Burke says. "I told about 200
kids who wanted your autograph that they weren't allowed to come
down here." Nevertheless, about 10 minutes later more than 50
youngsters have made the mile-long walk from the clubhouse to
try to get his autograph.
Back at the Regency, Woods watches a replay of the round on the
Golf Channel before turning in. "Hey, my shoulders are bigger,"
he says. "I'm not such a skinny little kid anymore." But he
isn't as happy when he studies his swing on an approach shot.
When he sees that his left wrist is flat rather than cupped at
the top of his swing, he's disgusted. "Tiger! You're terrible,"
he says. "I can't make that swing tomorrow."
Asked if he will draw on his experience from Quad City, Woods is
emphatic. "A lot," he says. "Let's face it, I fell on my ass.
The beauty of it is I can say 'been there, done that' and pick
up the pieces. I can't really explain it, but I'm going to have
a different feeling."
And will he have trouble sleeping? "No," he says. "Why should I
be nervous? That's for game time. I'm going to sleep like a log."
SUNDAY: Woods is pleased to feel the drizzle that begins when he
birdies the 3rd hole. "I wanted the conditions to be hard
because it's easier to catch up," he says. But his mood changes
when he sees that Fred Funk has birdied four of the first six
holes and is six shots ahead of him. "Guys out here can just go
off," he says. "Only a couple of us could do that in college. On
Tour, everybody can."
By the time Woods reaches the 7th hole, play is suspended. Two
hours later the final round is canceled. Woods ties for third
with Burke, yet while packing for his flight to Orlando, he
refuses to celebrate. "I'm not there yet," he says. "I feel good
because no one thought I would be able to bounce back after last
week, but I did. That shows I'm tough enough to deal with
disappointment, but it won't mean anything if I don't keep my
focus. I've just got to keep going."
Last week's tie for third in the B.C. Open was Tiger Woods's
ticket to a full schedule on Tour in '97. Woods is now sure to
finish 150th or better on the money list, which qualifies him
for an unlimited number of sponsors' exemptions next year. He
has also earned exemptions, based on his earnings, into the
final stage of the three-tournament Q school and into all the
events before the Oct. 24-27 Tour Championship. That means Woods
will have one more start than he planned, at the Disney, to
reach 125th on the money list, win a Tour card and bypass Q
EVENT PLACE MONEY RANK
Milwaukee T60 $2,544 346
Canadian 11 $37,500 204
Quad City T5 $42,150 166
B.C. Open T3 $58,000 128
Ahead: Buick (Sept. 26-29), Las Vegas (Oct. 2-6), Texas (Oct.
10-13), Disney (Oct. 17-20).