THOUSAND OAKS, California (AP) — One of the most coveted autograph in sports is Tiger Woods, who signs sparingly at golf tournaments, more than he likes when requests are brought to him, and who has a deal with Upper Deck to combat forgeries.
There aren’t many autographs he wants in return, but Woods recently got a prized possession — a baseball signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.
“How about that?” Woods said, breaking into a broad smile when asked about the autograph.
Why is Koufax so meaningful to him?
For one thing, Woods said they share the same birthday (Dec. 30), although Koufax arrived on earth 40 years earlier. Additionally, Woods grew up a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, and besides Jackie Robinson, he can think of no other player who better epitomizes his team.
“I’ve been a Dodger fan my entire life, and Koufax is the man,” he said. “For pitchers, you wouldn’t think of any other player. During those five years (in the 1960s), nobody could touch him.”
Woods asked an official at Upper Deck that if he ever ran into Koufax, would he ask for an autograph. The next time Woods saw him, the Upper Deck rep handed him a baseball.
“It’s got a personal inscription,” Woods said. “It’s at home in my bedroom, sitting right there.”
Woods said it was only the second autograph of a sports figure he has sought in his life. The other came about a dozen years ago when he met Muhammad Ali. He wound up getting a signed pair of boxing trunks that Ali wore in a fight in 1977.
“I had never asked for any autograph ever, and I said to him, ‘Could you please sign anything, a paper, anything, please?’ He was shaking (from Parkinson’s Disease) and said, ‘I’ll take care of it.’ All of a sudden, I had a a pair of trunks. He said, ‘I won’t be needing these anymore.’ I’ve got those hanging on my wall.”
SILLY SEASON: All it took was one tournament for Tiger Woods to be the unofficial winner of the unofficial season.
Woods was among three players who earned more than $1 million in the silly season, comprised of tournaments that did not count toward a money list or the world ranking. His victory in the Target World Challenge was worth $1.35 million.
Despite getting shut out in the Skins Game, Masters champion Zach Johnson came in second in the silly season with $1,108,750 in four tournaments, nearly 30 percent of what he earned in 23 events on the U.S. PGA Tour that counted.
Coming in third was Colin Montgomerie, who earned $1.025 million from the World Cup and Target World Challenge.
And fret not for Fred Couples, the unofficial king of the silly season. He played only twice on the U.S. PGA Tour because of a severe back injury, but managed to compete three times after the season ended and finished ninth on the list with $572,500.
FLAG SIGNINGS: Zach Johnson finished a round at the Target World Challenge last weekend when a fan asked him to sign a 2007 Masters flag. Johnson asked for the man’s name — Darren — and wrote it on the flag.
It didn’t take him long to learn where most of those souvenir flags go.
“I got to Hilton Head the week after the Masters and signed I don’t know how many flags,” he said. “Later that week, some friends of mine went on eBay and found 40 of them for sale.”
HARRINGTON TIDBITS: British Open champion Padraig Harrington brought copies of his book, “Journey to the Open,” to the Target World Challenge, and it includes some interesting notes about his victory at Carnoustie.
He used three drivers during the British Open, going from a 9-degree loft in practice to a 7.5-degree loft in the first two rounds to an 8.5-degree loft on the weekend. The latter, which he used to drive into the Barry Burn on the 72nd hole, is still in his bag.
He had to go to the pro shop to buy golf balls before the playoff because he couldn’t find the extra balls he had set aside, although he located them moments before he teed off against Sergio Garcia.
And perhaps the most important piece of information?
His first drink out of the claret jug was John Smith’s Extra Smooth bitter, a promise he had made to his manager.
STAT: All six continents where golf is played are represented by players in the top 14 in the world ranking.
FINAL WORD: “For all the people out there who have been extremely successful, they’ve always loved what they do, from athletes to whatever their job description. If you really do have a passion for it, then you don’t ever get burned out.” — Tiger Woods.