I spent 32 minutes looking for Tiger Woods’ golf ball
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — How long would you spend looking for a Tiger Woods golf ball? I spent over 30 minutes. Why? Allow me to explain.
Woods teed off with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Harold Varner III in a high-powered afternoon foursome on Tuesday at Liberty National, two days before the start of The Northern Trust and the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. It was a light-hearted casual round, like most practice rounds are, with no fans (the course was closed on Tuesday) and about 20 people walking along — coaches, volunteers, agents, media members and so on. On the 6th hole, Woods missed the fairway well left and reloaded before his first ball had even landed. Fast-forward a few minutes and Woods’ manager Rob McNamara and caddie Joe LaCava traipsed through the fescue for several minutes in eager search for Woods’ lost Bridgestone Tour B XS. Myself and a couple of others in the area helped, but our quest failed.
Two things struck me about the scene. 1) Why did we spend even a couple of minutes looking for Tiger Woods’ golf ball? It’s a practice round (no penalty strokes!), golf balls are less than $50/dozen and, presumably, Woods gets these bad boys for free and in bulk. 2) This was a significant opportunity. How often does one get a chance to find (and keep?) Woods’ golf ball, “TIGER” stamping and all? Without fans on the course, this prize was up for grabs. That rarely happens. Two men recognized this and stayed back to search as the rest of the group walked up the fairway. One hole later, the group skipped from the 7th green to the 17th tee, where they played the last two holes to wrap up their nine-hole day. That meant we crossed back over the 6th fairway, and I, feeling some unknown pull, veered off right — I was going to find that golf ball. Challenge accepted.
I wasn’t sure why I went back. I probably wasn’t going to offer the ball back to Tiger. I wasn’t going to sell it. I’m not the sentimental type where I would have treasured this keepsake. I could have given it to my toddler daughter — “You’ll treasure this some day,” I’d say — but she would have probably just shoved it in the dog’s food dish, where the rest of our household items go to die.
But the more I searched the more I was hooked. I wandered into the shared left rough of the 16th hole, hoping Tony Finau, who was coming down the fairway, didn’t see me and think I was nuts. I looked in a bush, under a bunker lip, by a tree and through some TV equipment. I gazed into a few ominous-looking critter holes, but still no ball. (Luckily I also struck out finding animals, most of which scare me). DJ hit one farther than Tiger on the same line on the 6th, so I did my best Bryson DeChambeau impression to calculate the difference between where DJ’s ball landed and where Tiger, who doesn’t hit it as far anymore, could have ended. I also remembered where LaCava was searching and focused me efforts there. (If Joey doesn’t know where this ball is, nobody does.)
By this time the USGA would have penalized me for exceeding the allotted time to search for a lost ball (I miss the five-minute rule). A few caddies walked past as they checked out fairway yardages, and several workers in carts whizzed by. Some waved while others gave puzzled looks, but I was ready to defend myself if they asked what I was doing. “Tiger hit his ball in here,” I would say, matter-of-factly, “and I’m going to find it.”
My panoramic view started to get eerie and lonely the longer I stayed out there. My sunscreen was wearing off (SPF 55), and so was my patience. I couldn’t leave empty-handed, but I couldn’t just keep looking, either. Sweaty and sunburnt, I finally admitted defeat. Thirty-two minutes had passed. But as I stepped out of the fescue and back to the cart path, something caught my eye: a white speck in the grass. I sprang after it, brushed some grass to the side and saw a pearly gamer. I picked it up, turned it over and anxiously read aloud:
“Snell 2 MTB Black.”
Son of a…