Woods has critics in gallery, and one makes himself heard

Woods has critics in gallery, and one makes himself heard

Tiger Woods after missing a birdie putt on the fourth hole Thursday.
Fred Vuich/SI

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Tiger Woods showed the utmost respect for the greens on Thursday. With birdie chances on his first four holes, he gently coaxed his ball toward the hole but settled for pars.

That same respect was not shown to Woods by one fan on the ninth tee box. Having made eight consecutive pars, Woods hit driver for the first time and sent his shot rocketing down the fairway.

“It is our business,” a man yelled. “You made it our business!” It was a reference to Woods’s pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, when a reporter asked Woods if he and his wife, Elin, had come to any resolution. Woods answered, “That’s none of your business.”

Tiger never looked to his left—where the heckler was standing—but the crowd booed and one of Woods’s playing partners, Ernie Els, glared. It was one of the most vocal outbursts directed at Woods since he returned to competitive golf at this year’s Masters.

There were other jokes and jabs about Woods from the fans outside the ropes, but most were whispered. As Tiger jogged to the bathroom after hitting his tee shot on the fourth hole, a guy holding a beer said to his friend, “Bet there’s someone in there waiting for him.”

As Woods prepared to hit his birdie putt on No. 7, a woman watching on the hillside overlooking the green kept saying, “Miss it, miss it.” A man standing next to her chimed in, “I wonder where the closest Go-Go bar is?”

Despite these incidents, most fans were supportive. On the first tee, many people in the stands stood and cheered when Tiger arrived. As Els and Lee Westwood, the third member of the group, walked down the first fairway, one fan yelled, “Fifteen shots fellas. Fifteen shots!” It was a reference to Woods’s winning margin the last time the U.S. Open was contested at Pebble Beach in 2000.

Leading up to Thursday’s first round, Tiger’s relatively poor play dominated the headlines. It seemed the focus had returned to his game. Could he pull it together and win another U.S. Open on the course where he lapped the field 10 years ago?

But it was clear on Thursday that some fans were still thinking about the scandal, and Tiger’s off-course shortcomings have not been forgotten.