When Tiger Woods agreed to sit with a tiger for this week's
cover, Matt Ginella, SI's picture editor for golf, was thrilled.
But he didn't need to be told of the horrific headlines that
would follow if anything went wrong during the shoot.
Dire thoughts were never far from Ginella's mind as he, creative
director Steve Hoffman and senior staff photographer Heinz
Kluetmeier flew to Woods's home base at Isleworth Country Club
in Orlando on March 31. A few hours before the photo session,
they joined up with animal trainer David McMillan of Tigers Eye
Productions, which teaches people how to train exotic animals.
Though Woods had agreed to sit with a cub, McMillan instead
escorted into Isleworth's posh ballroom a pair of 650-pound
adult male tigers, which he said were better trained and more
manageable than a cub.
Indeed, things seemed perfectly manageable until Dimitri, a
royal Bengal, got an accidental goose from a handler and leaped
at Kluetmeier, who, remarkably, hardly flinched. When Samson, a
snow tiger, lost his footing a few moments later on the canvas
photo backdrop and darted across the room toward Hoffman, our
intrepid creative director bolted for the door. "At that point,
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," says Ginella. "Here I
had painted for Tiger's agent, Hughes Norton, a picture of Tiger
with a little kitty. We thought there was no way Woods would
agree to sit with either of these big cats."
But when Tiger arrived at the club, he displayed the coolness
that has served him well in competition. He walked right up to
Samson, and during 30 minutes of posing with the beast, on cue
he looked intense and laughed, especially when McMillan joked
that a bucket of meat held near the camera to keep Samson
looking toward the lens was "all that was left of Fuzzy
Zoeller." But Woods made it clear that there was one thing he
wouldn't do. Before anyone had even asked, he announced, "I'm
not going to growl."
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER COOL CATS Woods tamed Samson for SI's Hoffman (center) and Ginella. [Tiger Woods, Steve Hoffman, snow tiger Samson and Matt Ginella]
McMillan joked that a nearby bucket of meat was "all that was
left of Fuzzy Zoeller."