NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — They were voted rookie of the year 20 years ago in their respective sports and quickly piled up championships. Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter finally had a chance to play golf together Monday.
Only one of them is retired.
“He never played golf when he played baseball,” Woods said after going nine holes at Albany Golf Club with the former New York Yankees shortstop. “Now that he’s out of baseball, he’s addicted to playing golf. From what I had first heard from some of the guys I know who have played with him, he slashed it around. But now he’s focused. He likes to practice. He likes to play. He does his fitting, tries to get better. You can tell he’s analyzing, he’s watching, he’s asking questions.”
The group included Jeter’s ex-teammate, Tino Martinez, and Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose.
They played before the rest of the 18-man field began arriving for the Hero World Challenge, a holiday event that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and suddenly feels a lot more significant because Woods is coming back after 15 months, the longest hiatus of his career.
Woods has a new endorsement on his golf bag (Monster Energy) and a few new pieces of equipment, mainly a Bridgestone golf ball, a TaylorMade driver and the old Scotty Cameron putter he used to win his 14 major championships.
For someone who began playing only two years ago, Jeter already is down to a 10 handicap and hits it plenty far, usually where he’s aiming.
“He asked me a bunch of technical questions about the game, and I could hear him pick the brain over there with Rosie,” Woods said. “He wants to know. He’s one of the best athletes who ever lived. He wants to learn. He asks the right questions.”
Jeter ended his career two years ago with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth in his final at-bat. Woods can only dream of finishing a career like that; he knows that never happens in golf.
“You would think that win a major and you’re done,” he said of the perfect end to a golf career. “But if you win a major, you’re going to want to come back and play.”
Woods relished the few hours with Jeter, and referenced an “end of the era thing” with him, Jeter and Kobe Bryant, another rookie in 1996.
“We all came in together. We all followed each other, watched each other,” he said. “We all were in the prime of our career, doing stuff, winning championships, winning majors. When I was having my run, he was having his run.”
The Yankees won the World Series four times in five years through 2000. Woods won the Masters in 1997 for his first major, and he won four more majors in 1999-2000. Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title three straight years; Woods won six majors during that stretch, including an unprecedented sweep.
“And I get to keep playing,” Woods said with a smile.