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Tiger in Shanghai December 8, 2009

Posted by jorkat in Shanghai.
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As outlined in my previous post, we arrived in Shanghai mid-afternoon on Friday with the intent of following Tiger during his third round of the HSBC Champions event on Saturday. I had been planning this trip since Tiger announced his participation over 6 months ago. So needless to say, I was looking forward to this day quite a bit. 

Tiger has competed in this event every year since 2006 with the exception of last year as he was recovering from knee surgery, but has never actually won it. After solid opening rounds of 67 on Thursday and Friday, Tiger had a share of the lead and was playing in the final group. Phil was just a few strokes back and playing in the second to last group right in front of Tiger. This was better than having them play together because it dispersed the crowd somewhat between the two groups and allowed us to watch both players throughout the day. 

Tiger actually received a $3M appearance fee just for showing up. He also played the following weekend in Australia and collected another $3M for that as well on top of the prize money he earned for winning the Australian tournament. Therefore, he collected in excess of $7M for playing in two tournaments. He then boarded his private jet after two weeks abroad and went back to his perfect life with his loving wife and children. 

Back when I wrote about Tiger and my top 3 man crushes, I discussed how much I missed having Tiger and Tom Brady in my life while they were recuperating from respective knee injuries last year. I missed watching their clutch performances on sports’ grandest stages, even if it was almost always from a far. Sure, I had seen Tiger  live at Augusta, but those crowds were overwhelming. I got even closer at the Presidents Cup in Montreal, but I had never met any of my top 3 in person…until Shanghai. 

I had no idea what to expect in terms of crowds, but we had every intention of following Tiger as closely as possible. An article on ESPN on Friday mentioned how the crowds following him were extremely large and that security was having problems with people using cameras and cell phones. In most PGA tournaments in North America, cameras and cell phones are strictly prohibited. If you get caught using either, you can get kicked off the property. At the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, they have metal detectors and pat down every patron. The security is tighter than an airport. This wasn’t the case in Shanghai. There were signs posted all over the course banning the use of cameras and cell phones, but that didn’t stop anyone. Golf has a very small following in China, but it’s growing quickly, so I think they implemented the no cameras/cell phones policy to appease the players, but turned a blind eye to it to encourage more people to come and get pictures of the world’s best golfers. I obviously took full advantage of the situation, but was much more discreet than most. 

 It wasn’t much of an issue with any of the other players, but Tiger and Phil had very large followings and more than half the people had some sort of electronic device. They didn’t mind if you took pictures in between shots, but as soon as the player was about to address his ball, security would go around to everyone in the crowd and try to get them to put away all cameras and cell phones. Not a fun job. Every threesome has two security people assigned – Tiger and Phil had six each. Luckily I was able to get some footage of him on the practice green and sneak of few action shots throughout his round without being noticed by security. 

Check out this lag putt that he hits from over 40 feet away. And yes, I’m likely responsible for the majority of the 100-plus views of this video on YouTube so far. 

The best part of watching a golf event live in China is that if you’re over 5’10”, you never have to deal with obstructed views. No matter how large the gallery is, finding an open sight line isn’t a problem. I estimated that between 5-10% of the crowd was visible minorities, meaning that we stuck out rather easily. Tiger may not have known who I was before the round, but he surely did once it was over, as me and Stevie (his caddy) were almost always the only white dudes within 20 feet of him. 

 In fact, we were able to get so close that Tiger and I had a nice chat after he finished up on the practice green en route to the first tee. I don’t remember the exact wording of the conversation, but I’m sure if you ask him he would remember it word for word. It went something like this… 

Me: Good luck Tiger. 

Tiger: Thanks. 

After I regained consciousness surrounded by Chinese paramedics, I reflected on the depth of our exchange and the undeniable bond of our burgeoning friendship. Here’s a picture of where the exchange took place. 

Taken shortly before “The Conversation”.

As Tiger readied himself on the first tee, Katie and I immediately started down the left side of the fairway. I explained to her along the way that Tiger has a tendency to be a little wild off the first tee and that if he hit an errant shot, that he would likely push it left. We walked to about the 300 yard mark and I looked back towards the tee waiting for Tiger’s ball to receive clearance for take-off. Sure enough, as soon as he completed his swing, he immediately pointed left with his driver indicating to the crowd and tournament officials that he had indeed pushed it left. Since most of the patrons had never attended a live golf tournament before, no one even knew the ball was in the air. I did my best to warn everyone but I didn’t know how to say “Head’s Up!” in Mandarin. No one budged until the ball came screaming into the crowd like a scud missile about 10 feet from where we were standing. I watched it the whole way and we immediately positioned ourselves to be right next to it for his approach shot. This was the first of many close encounters with Tiger and Stevie throughout the day. 

 From this position, he ripped a wedge through the deep grass and put his ball safely on the green for an opening par. 

Golf is a made-for-TV sport but watching them live gives you an even greater appreciation for how good these guys really are. I love hearing the conversations between player and caddy as they discuss club selection, weather conditions, and targets. It’s also amazing how much control of the ball they have. One of my favourite shots of the day was Tiger’s famous 2-iron stinger. He uses it whenever he needs to put the ball safely in the middle of the fairway and doesn’t want to risk hitting a driver or fairway wood. He can hit this shot in his sleep and rarely makes a mistake. As soon as I saw him take out the 2-iron from his bag, I knew it was coming. He uses a ¾ follow-through and keeps the ball real low so it stays under the wind and he gets maximum roll. It’s like watching an airplane taking off. It goes dead straight and slowly rises off in the distance, over 250 yards straight down the middle of the fairway. He doesn’t even watch to see where it will end up. He already knows. 

The more time we spent following Tiger, the more I realized how much we have in common. We both love golf. I bought a white Nike Golf hat at the airport. He wore a white Nike Golf hat on Saturday. He ate banana bread on the 6th hole. I had banana bread while the players made the turn after the 9th. The only real thing that separates us is the fact that Tiger gets paid $3M just to show up and I had to pay approximately $120 for 2 tickets. That, and he sleeps with whores. Aside from that we’re virtually twins. 

 Tiger isn’t very accommodating when it comes to signing autographs or posing for pictures, especially while he’s playing. Fortunately, he was nice enough to make an exception and pose with Katie for a picture on the 12th tee box. He even agreed to make it an action shot. He was a little unsure of which club to use, so I recommended a 7-iron and moving the ball back in his stance to keep the ball flight low as the wind had picked up slightly. Here’s the famous picture – Katie and Tiger have never looked better. Look at that incredible form. Tiger looks good too. 

 Where’s Katie you ask? That’s her ear on the left. Check out his mammoth security guard in the background too. This picture will soon adorn our mantle right next to our wedding picture. 

Tiger and Phil battled for the lead back and forth for most of the day with both players making some nice birdies. Phil ended up with the lead going into the final round on Sunday and eventually won the tournament. He also won a waffle eating contest in the clubhouse the following morning. Tiger settled for 6th and was a non-factor on Sunday. I didn’t actually see any of his final round but from what I heard from those he did watch, he didn’t play well at all. Maybe he had something else on his mind. 

All in all, the entire experience was exactly what I was hoping for. When we started planning to live and teach overseas, I never imagined getting to see Tiger play live and get as close as we did. Getting to speak with him and becoming friends was an added bonus, although he still hasn’t added me on Facebook yet. 

Here are some more pictures from our day with Tiger…and Phil in China. 

 Stay tuned for another post about the rest of our weekend in Shanghai.

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Comments»

1. Kasia Fink - December 8, 2009

I can’t believe I just scanned through several paragraphs of golf gobbledy-gook searching for a cheating reference. At one point I actually thought to myself, holy cow do they not get news in Asia? Well, that’s one way to get me to read about golf. Way to go, Jordan.

2. Brigitte - December 9, 2009

Yeah, was waiting for that italic line. I also can’t believe I read the whole thing. Is he still your man crush after all this cheating reference?

3. Sean - December 9, 2009

Jordan: Tiger, I wont tell the media about us.

Tiger: Thanks

4. Michael R - December 10, 2009

Did Katie have an affair with Tiger during the tournament?

5. A.C. Slater - December 12, 2009

I was googling “sex with pornstars” and came across this post about Mr Tiger Woods.

6. Shanghai « 2009: An Asian Odyssey - January 8, 2010

[…] After a long day of unexpected twists, we headed back to our hostel to get some much needed sleep. Much to our delight, there was a 24-hour massage parlor located immediately next door. We popped in for a dirt-cheap couples foot massage in order to physically and mentally prepare for another grueling day of walking. For those of you who missed it, you can read more about our day with Tiger here. […]


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