Filed by Bob Gary Jr.
The 2010 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship, set for The Honors Course, may have to go pretty hard to match the interest generated by the 1996 championship, also played at Honors.
That’s because the heir apparent to golf’s throne, Stanford University sophomore Eldrick Tiger Woods, and his Cardinal teammates were in the field. He wasn’t yet the world’s best player, but he already had his media management skills down cold.
Tiger came to Ooltewah amid buzz that he would turn pro after playing the NCAA and attempting to defend his U.S. Amateur title. But he wasn’t saying much about that — or anything else, really — at Honors.
Each day, officials brought Tiger to the interview room, where those of us covering the championship tried diligently to wheedle from him something of import.
Turning pro soon, Tiger? Not thinking about that ... got a tournament this week.
We thought we had something when he admitted that he had a strategy for the four-round event, but then he wouldn’t say what it was.
Tell you after, he said with that trademark grin.
Finally, the day arrived. It was Saturday, June 1. Tiger started that day’s final round with a nine-shot cushion, but struggled to an 80. He still won by four, though, over the University of Arizona’s Rory Sabbatini, who’s now a pretty fair pro himself.
After the tournament, we crowded into the interview room for the big moment — Tiger’s disclosure of his master plan, surely an intricately crafted, hole-by-hole design worthy of a military strategist.
So what was it, Tiger? Fairways and greens. Just hit fairways and greens.
I almost felt cheated. Fairways and greens? Avoid mistakes? That’s it? That surpassingly risk-averse strategy is the simplest in golf.
When you’ve got Tiger talent, though, it’s enough.
E-mail Bob Gary Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org