Different Strokes Tiger Woods plays a game apart from that of the common hacker--in more ways than one

December 03, 2001

I am not Tiger Woods.

Tiger was standing last week at the 18th green of the Poipu Bay
Golf Course, at the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort & Spa, poised to
accept an oversized novelty check for $400,000 while--scant
yards away--rare Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and
humpback whales frolicked in a Barbicide-blue Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile I was standing last week at the 3rd green of the
Mottled Palms Golf Course & Mah-Jongg Center, in Phase II of my
father's retirement community in Florida, when the sprinkler
system sprang to life without warning and violently sprayed me
in the face, as if all the Earth were an oversized,
seltzer-squirting novelty boutonniere.

Tiger's playing partners in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf were the
three other winners of this year's majors: David Duval, Retief
Goosen and David Toms. No other golfers were allowed to sully
the course, which runs--like a rucked green carpet--past the
stone ruins of heiaus, the island's ancient and sacred sites of
worship.

Whereas my playing partners on Ladies-Play-for-Free Day were a
snowbird couple from Muskegon: Frank and Vera. Three foursomes
waited on the bottlenecked 3rd fairway, which runs--like the
scarred puce skin of a diseased kiwi--past the Target on Highway
41.

At Poipu Bay, Tiger plumb-bobbed a putt while the surf rolled
hypnotically from Keoneola Bay, washing ashore on the ivory
sands and ebony cliffs of Shipwreck Beach. "I don't see how he
can play like that, with waves crashing on the rocks," said TNT
color commentator Lanny Wadkins, sighing audibly on the air.

At Mottled Palms, I plumb-bobbed a putt while cement mixers
backed up endlessly from the Phase III condo-construction site,
beep-beep-beeping in perfect syncopation with the bleating of
distant cellphones. "I think I stepped in fire ants," said Vera
from Muskegon, scratching madly at her ankles.

On the 5th tee in Hawaii, Tiger heard the bewitching call of a
nene and then drove a Nike Precision Tour Accuracy TW 297 yards
to the center cut of the fairway.

On the 7th tee in Florida, I heard the distinctive whine of a
diesel-powered weed wacker and then chunked a Lady Classic onto
the forward tee box.

Famished after nine, Tiger turned to his caddie, who handed his
hungry boss energy bars and bottled water. The look on Tiger's
face said, That hit the spot.

Famished after nine, I sprinted to the unmanned snack stand,
powerless to purchase the hot dogs that made countless
tantalizing circuits, in plain sight, on one of those stainless
steel frankfurter Ferris wheels. The sign on the window said,
BACK IN 15 MINUTES! The dot above the second i was a smiley face.

Tiger was accompanied at every moment by a retinue of marshals,
who hushed hecklers, shooshed shutterbugs and generally made
certain that no sound was issued on his backswing, save birdsong
and wave crash.

I was accompanied at every moment by Frank from Muskegon, who--on
the 17th tee box--stage-farted on my backswing.

All I'm trying to say is this: If professional golfers appear
more focused than the rest of us, they ought to. Because every
time Tiger looked up last week, he saw Retief Goosen draining
his putts.

Every time I looked up last week, I saw Frank from Muskegon
draining his putz.

When Tiger approached the 18th green at Poipu Bay, applause
erupted like a million moth wings flapping, acknowledging the
greatness of Woods.

When I approached the 18th green at Mottled Palms, sprinklers
erupted on cue with the fury of Old Faithful, supersoaking the
seat of my pants.

At the conclusion of his Grand Slam round in Hawaii last week,
Tiger got a lovely lei and a crystal trophy and was given a ride
to the airport in a courtesy car. He stood, unmistakably, atop
the PGA.

At the conclusion of my round in Florida last week, I got a
melanoma and a Miller Lite and rode to Dad's condo on the old
man's three-speed. I wore, unmistakably, pants from the Gap.

I am not Tiger Woods.

B/W ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)