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4 comments on watching Tiger Woods up close for the first time

Tiger Woods on the practice list for the PGA Championship.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Playing golf is fun.

Walking working golf? I'll admit it now: It's a little uncomfortable.

My week started with a 4 am alarm and six hours of travel, which would normally be enough to put me in a bad mood. But not this time. I was naughty. Not only is this week's PGA tournament the first time I've covered a golf tournament in person, it's also my first time attending a major tournament for any reason. Sure, the pre-dawn flight from Boise to Louisville (via Minneapolis) wasn't strong, but I was okay. to be paid to the PGA Championship. I would have taken the Greyhound.

As I sat in the window seat on the first leg of my Monday morning flight, I thought about the possibilities.

I get to watch Scottie Scheffler at the height of his powers.

I can see Rory hitting the ball a mile in the sky.

Maybe Brooks Koepka can bounce back.

I need to do everything I can to enjoy this moment.

It's embarrassing to admit, but seeing Tiger play in person never crossed my mind. When I first started playing golf, Tiger had just won his 14th title at the 2008 US Open. His 15th major at the Masters in 2019 is one of the best sports memories of my life, but overall, I've seen him miss more times than I've seen him win. For most of my golf-watching life, Tiger has been a legendary figure hiding mostly in the background, coming out every now and then to remind everyone that he's still around, and he's still the best to do it.

Then I saw him walk into the press tent on Tuesday and it hit me.

I am stupid. I have a chance to watch the GOAT. A guy who took the sport I love to a level no one thought possible.

Nothing is guaranteed in life. Tiger and his long list of career-altering injuries are proof of that. And forget Tiger – this can be mine the grand finale for all I know. I didn't search to look at him, I had to.

So I headed out early Wednesday morning through the muddy slopes of Valhalla to do just that, and came away with a few observations from the experience.

4 tips for watching Tiger Woods up close

1. You are the epitome of a “slut”

The tiger has been here since Sunday. Including last week's test drive and the three other events he's played at Valhalla, he already knows every fairway on the golf course.

He says it takes him two hours to get ready and two hours to power down every time he plays. With that in mind, it's no stretch to say he's been up at 4am every day this week (which is pretty much it mine crying). The steep terrain surrounding the course makes navigating the area a challenging journey even for a healthy twenty-something. I can only imagine what it did to his right leg and he stepped back. So why not take it easy today before four straight days of 18 holes? Because he is Tiger Woods.

He spent nearly two hours on the range Wednesday morning, including more than 40 minutes hitting 10-footers. Then he went out and played a few practice holes to get a feel for the softness of the course after a few days of rain. He can't help himself, he love grind. It's inspiring to watch and I'm grateful to see his famous tournament around this week.

2. His swing smooth

For a guy with more iron on his back than my 90-year-old grandfather, it's amazing to see how smooth Tiger's swing is. I have seen many old videos of attacking football with speed and power. His injuries have robbed him of the ability to do that, but all those years of accumulated golf wisdom have gifted him with the dreamiest swing tempo I've ever seen.

After the panic wore off, I was filled with envy as I watched Woods hit the bells. His beautiful swing and wrist swing will take my mind every time I swing the club. When I come back to Boise from Louisville, I know I'll spend hours on the range trying to copy it, definitely hurting my own game. No one can copy Tiger. Fans and professionals alike have been trying for years without success. But that won't stop me from trying, because that's what Tiger watches in a person.

3. He treats fame like a science

Tiger has more followers at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday than most players see all week. He played golf in front of him millions people throughout his career. However, the problem is that the crowds are not decreasing. Everyone wants an autograph, a photo, a quote from the most famous golfer of all time.

The relentless crowds sent me into a profanity-laced conversation about 10 minutes in, but he seemed to handle it with ease, enduring years of staring eyes at his every move.

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He doesn't accept the multitude of hoots and shouts and autograph requests, except for the occasional nod of the head or the slightest wave of the hand. He seems to be a well-calculated mix of being grateful for support but laser-focused on the goal ahead – and rest assured, it counts.

It's still more than enough to send the masses into a tizzy. I Tiger Woods gave them the nod, a story they will surely tell for years to come. And if I'm honest with myself, I might as well.

4. There are still hints

The highlight of my time with Tiger was watching him play the 9th hole. The short par-4 is by no means a difficult hole, and will likely produce plenty of birdies this week. But man, you played it completely. The sound of his driving pierced the trees as the float descended the middle of the highway. He made short work of the next wedge shot, sticking it within 10 feet of the pin, tempo on full display. Easy birdie.

It was the vision of the Tiger that conquered everything. A player with precision and accuracy elite. I always thought of his”I'm here because I believe I can win” the speech was just talking. Deep down there's no way he believes that, right? It's just a mind game.

Now I'm not sure. Every golfer knows that feeling. After you play the hole well, you walk away thinking that golf is for real is something not defeated. It's that feeling that keeps us coming back for more. Tiger is still dealing with this now, even with his health problems. You can see it in his face.

Does he know that the game is still in him, and if he can find a compromise? Who knows. Do I think he can win again? I'm desperate. Putting 72 holes of good golf together seems impossible. But my or anyone else's thoughts about his chances don't matter. He you believe he can win, and his opinion is the only one that matters.

I learned many lessons from following Tiger this morning, but if there's one thing that will stick with me long after the week is over, it's his unwavering belief. It even makes me a believer.

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