Chasing a Tiger – I came to see the Greatest

It’s 5:40 am on Friday morning.

The only lights on at Innisbrook Golf Resort‘s beautiful Copperhead Course are those of the groundskeepers placing today’s pins for the PGA’s Valspar Championship.

“Guys, watch out for the golf carts,” I forcefully whisper as my four oldest kids and I trudge toward the grand stand of the first tee.

Tiger Woods on the practice green of the PGA’s Valspar Championship (March, 2018)

As we reach the course’s modest clubhouse, my 5 year-old catches a smile from an elderly volunteer who takes notice of our early, school day arrival, “Hey there!  Are you up early to see Tiger Woods?  He’s the greatest!”

My son, Everett, wasn’t sure (or possibly was not fully awake) and replied politely as he hugged my leg, “Yep.”

Indeed, we were there to see Tiger – the greatest professional golfer that I’ve ever watched.  The golfer who, I’d later tell Everett, “Was on Johnny Carson hitting balls at about your age, buddy!”

As it turns out, though, we weren’t the only ones that planned to catch a glimpse of the world’s most famous golfer.  In fact, the crowds were thick and crazy – far too crazy for a dad and his four children under the age of 12 to fight.

But, we did get to see the greatest work.

Watching Woods at the practice green was majestic and unreal – where the difference between the greatest player of my lifetime and the others that surrounded him that day was clear.

On the practice green that morning, I watched greatness.

As if on a mission, Tiger Woods began his putting practice by taking out six sparkling golf balls.  He placed four on the ground between his fresh Nike’s and two in his extended, left palm.

After meticulously separating each ball on the ground, Woods took his putting stance, pendulum’d back the club with his right hand and tapped each ball.

From about six feet away from the hole, one after another hit the bottom of the cup – until all that was left were the two in his out-stretched palm.

My concentration on Tiger’s warm up suddenly was interrupted by my 10 year-old, Lynden, saying, “He’s putting one-handed?  I wonder if he’ll give out those other balls he’s holding.”

Before I could answer, those two remaining balls filled the top of the cup after a more natural, two-handed stroke.

Woods went 6-for-6, but you’d never know it from his stoic disposition or his quick retrieval and re-do.

During those 30 seconds, we indeed had watched the greatest.

“Lynden, did you see that?”  I grinned as my son walked away, motioning to me that we had to go.  After all, the school day awaited.

And, as Tiger hit his driver off of the opening tee, the five of us walked in the other direction, we talked about what it would take to chase down Tiger – or Ronaldo or Tom Brady for that matter.

It takes precision.

It takes focus.

It takes crazy, gifted abilities and a love of the grind.

It takes myopic perseverance.

Above all, it takes practice – perfect practice at that.

I took my kids to see the greatest and we did – without following Tiger Woods on any hole or watching a single 300 yard drive.


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