Neck hairs jumped to attention. Birds bolted telephone lines.
Ears ached and pulses raced and perfect strangers embraced. Near
the clubhouse Nick Price heard it and said to somebody, "Had to
be an ace. Had to be Tiger." Amazing how much noise one little
dimpled golf ball can set off when just the right legend plunks
it into just the right hole.
It happened at the 16th at the Phoenix Open last Saturday, which
is not a hole but a giant mosh pit of a par-3. An estimated
20,000 people, many of them sober, were there when Tiger Woods
putted out on the 15th and made his way into Golfapalooza. As
usual, fans lined the path to the tee screaming and yelling as
though Woods were about to play Iraq on the hole, no strokes
given. But for the kid who is merely hijacking the game, it was
suddenly Woods-stock. "That hole is untraditional," Woods said
later. "That's the reason I like it. You don't have people out
there with handcuffs and mittens on."
Handcuffs didn't seem like such a bad idea. In fact, before he
left the 15th green, Woods told his caddie, "Maybe I should run
up through there like it's a tunnel at a football game and
explode onto the tee box and high-five everybody." What he did
instead was better. He cut a nine-iron shot that took two lovely
little hops before cuddling down in the cool shade of the hole.
The roar was what you might get if a sonic boom went off in your
garage. The crowd suddenly turned into Red Cashion, each fan
signaling touchdown. Beer cans, baseball caps and paper cups
rained on the tee, sacrifices to a 21-year-old god. And the roar
kept rolling. "They wouldn't stop," Woods said. It didn't end
until he took the little Titleist from its hole and flung it
deep into the throng, a souvenir of the ninth ace of his life,
his second in 10 tournaments as a pro. Art Wall is the king of
aces among Tour pros with 45, but if Mozart here keeps this
up--allowing for, say, 20 tournaments a year until he's
60--he'll have 156. How's he supposed to frame that many balls?
And so it goes with Tiger Woods, who is not only stealing golf's
heart and gold, but all of its scenes, too.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT BECK Although he was out of contention, Woods stole the show with his hole in one at the wild and woolly 16th. [Crowd cheering Tiger Woods]