SI Photographer Robert Beck: My Fave Photos

1 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
My Fave Photos Robert Beck, who got his first assignment for SI in 1988, has shot more golf tournaments—160 and counting—than any other photographer in the 53-year history of the magazine. Here are his most memorable images from the 2007 season. "This picture I work on almost every year at the Buick Invitational. It takes someone who is recognizable — Tiger Woods in this case — and a clean background void of any marshals, scorers or security types. This was one of those times when that all worked in my favor. I am fairly far down the fairway with a longer lens. I frame Tiger between the trees and fire from backswing to follow-through."
2 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"After Jim Furyk went over his options with a rules official several times on the 7th fairway at Carnoustie during the British Open, this was his best bet. You can't see it, but there is actually a large bush to my immediate left that he had to clear in order to reach the green. All the fans were craning over that fence to get a close look at the shot. That's one of the great things about golf: If a pro hits off the fairway and you are nearby, you can get really, really close to the action. You'll hear the caddie talk to the player and see the club selection, and a divot might even splatter your cardigan! Try to get that close at an NFL game!"
3 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"Sinking this putt was Woods's only chance to force a playoff with Angel Cabrera at Oakmont. The crowd was silent and you could hear a faint breeze in the big trees in the fading light. Tiger had been fighting all day to draw within striking distance on the last three holes. He just couldn't close it out — and he wouldn't here either."
4 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"I missed two days of the U.S. Open this year to attend my daughter's graduation (with honors) from UCLA (The School of Film and Television). Sorry, I had to brag a bit. I took the red-eye to Pittsburgh and headed to Oakmont to begin my coverage Saturday morning. This image was made on the front nine on Sunday, and it's unusual because it was taken from such a low angle. I generally like to show the player's stance and where the ball is coming from on bunker shots, but he was so deep that I could not resist shooting this angle. Even the fans are standing above his eye level!"
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"You think these guys aren't working hard? Think they don't feel the pressure? Take a close look at Mickelson's face here on the first green at The Player's Championship. But to be honest, I can't remember whether he made the putt or not."
6 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"I took my first trip to The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla. It was all I had expected: a great field, beautiful course, huge crowds and hot weather. As usual, my assistant, the fabulous Kojo Kinno, and I lugged around our kit of four camera bodies and multiple lenses. We also brought along a fish-eye lens rigged to an aluminum pool-cleaning extension, which allowed me to raise the camera 15 feet. I attached a small video screen to the camera eyepiece so I could see what the camera was seeing and compose the scene accordingly. This is a true bird's-eye view of the eventual winner, Phil Mickelson, teeing off on the first hole."
7 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"After racing ahead of Tiger on the 11th fairway, I gave Ron, my assistant at the Masters, the 400mm lens to hold along with the 600mm and told him I'd be back. I then headed up the rope line to a tree about 15 yards in front of Tiger's ball. I figured the tree would act as a bit of cover and Tiger might not have to move me. His ball was nestled in the needles close to another tree just inside the ropes, too tight for a regular swing. Tiger started to figure out how to play his shot (1). He checked his yardage and cleared out some people he felt were too close to his play (2). I think he was worried about breaking the club and having it hit a patron. He thought about hitting it lefty (3). He directed some more folks (4), picked a club and settled in for the shot. I did not have time to check any exposures because I didn't want to miss any of the things Tiger was doing leading up to the shot. My only concern was whether I would be able to see Tiger's face or not. I wanted to shoot just a hair late to try and capture the explosion of the needles and the club on the tree. Too early and the impact would be too clean. Whack! (5) Pine needles, dirt, pebbles and squirrel teeth fly. Forest shrapnel is everywhere. I can hear it blow by me. The crowd gasps then roars. Tiger walks toward the rope and ... picks up his bent club. He cranks it until it snaps in two and hands it to a course marshal (6). I head down to my assistant and we weave through the crowd to a photo pen down by the 12th green. Tiger's shot out of the woods was fabulous, right to the front of the green. He went on to save par and I had a lucky score that wound up being the SI cover shot that week.
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"Geoff Ogilvy stepped onto the big stage with a win in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. The stage here doesn't look much like a golf course, but it is — the very scenic, and aptly named, Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. The course winds through gorse and desert cacti and provides some stunning backdrops such as this tee box on the front nine."
9 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"Tiger Woods and J.J. Henry led the non-foreign legions through the desert at the match play. We shot this on Sepia-toned Polaroid film with a Crown Graphic 4 x 5 camera that was made in the late 1950s. The camera and film are quite bulky and very tricky to haul around a sporting event. I only get one frame of each scene I work on, so it takes planning. Once the image is shot, we must take care of the Polaroid print to keep it free from scratches and dust until it reaches the office in New York to be scanned. It's an old-fashioned way of working, and it adds a nostalgic look to a modern scene with a slightly different perspective from the modern-day 35mm lenses."
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"I'm no horticulturist, so I don't know the name of this cactus I saw at Dove Mountain during the WGC-Accenture Match play, but it was mocking pros who strayed from the fairway."
11 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"This image is also from the AT&T National Pro-Am. Carlos Franco is proving that Tour players are human, which makes some of us feel better. I don't think he was too happy about having to play his second shot on the par-3 2nd hole from the bridge left and short of the green."
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"The Poppy Hills course in Monterey is a great course to shoot. It is one of the three courses that round out the AT&T National Pro-Am every year. There is always a cold day, a rainy day and at least one sunny day during this Tour stop. The field may not be as loaded with stars as some tournaments, but you can't beat the scenery. Maybe Jeff Sluman didn't think so — he was in a bit of trouble here on the 12th hole. There were so many trees between him and the 12th green that he punched out to the 13th fairway before playing back to the 12th!"
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"Some people get tired of Bill Murray's antics. Not me. I could shoot him 365 days a year. He's funny and he wears his game on his sleeve. We followed him for three days at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and I could print a book of the great pictures we made over those 54 holes. This birdie attempt —yes, really— at the 9th at Poppy Hills lipped out, and any number of lines from Caddyshack could easily be inserted in this caption. You know you are laughing to yourself right now. So is Bill."
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"Here is an image that evokes those of yesteryear. And not just because it is in black and white. Tiger's form-fitting shirt highlights his torso and biceps just like those old tighties Arnie, Jack and Gary blew away the ladies with. Subtly macho. The power stroke is emphasized by the blur of his clubhead. The tiny bit of sunlight through the trees behind him details the muscles in his arms. Again, a very classic pose from a very modern champion."
15 of 15 Robert Beck/SI
"This 'portrait' was made for a GOLF Magazine story. Will was going to play a charity event with his college frat brothers near Los Angeles, and we were there to shoot a pre-match portrait. Not many golfers can mix Bermuda shorts with stylin' Pumas, dark socks and a Swedish national soccer team warm-up. He is a very funny man. 'I gotta have more cowbell, baby!' "