I don’t know when we will see Tiger Woods again, which is nothing new, but I do know that his recent injury is not easy to overcome. I suffered from the same ailment in 1999, mine brought on by swinging Vijay Singh’s weighted club at the PGA Championship at Medinah. I missed a month, and the injury seemed to flair up on me for a few weeks every year after. It still bothers me from time to time. This most recent physical setback of Tiger’s is yet another reminder that his inevitable journey to the top of the record book is not, well, inevitable. He has said all along when asked about his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 majors that “it takes time,” and while nobody will argue that, it also takes luck. Not only on the course but also in health.
My first taste of pro golf came at the Byron Nelson Classic. My dad took me on a Tuesday, and a player by the name of Alan Pate asked me to be his caddie for the week. I was 12 and the bag was bigger than me, but man, what a great experience. He gave me $200 and a couple dozen golf balls. Each day when we finished our round I went out to watch some of the other players. I saw Nicklaus hit a bomb fade on a par-5 that never came down. I ate my weight in hot dogs. And while sitting behind the 1st green, Larry Nelson putted out, came into the stands, sat down beside me and asked me if I wanted to play the Tour when I grew up. I said yes and he wished me luck, then headed to the 2nd tee. Years later I was paired with him at the Players and told him the story. He didn’t remember, but it was something I never forgot.