For my birthdayin July, I planned to play some golf, so I asked my partner, Stephen Weed, topick me up a box of Nike Ones. When I opened them, out rolled aplatinum-colored ball with the Tiger Woods logo on it. As instructed Iregistered it online, entering a drawing for a free trip to play golf withTiger. Wow!
I felt lucky tohave the ball but figured that'd be the end of it. More than 1,000 platinumballs had been found, and only 24 would be picked. But I won.
The trip was setfor Sept. 18, 19 and 20. We'd be entered in a scramble during which we'd play apar-3 with Tiger. Then he'd tee off for us on the following hole. On the firstnight at the Ginn Reunion Resort in Orlando, all the winners attended a welcomereception, and we spent much of the evening sharing "How did you find yourball?" stories. My favorite was the one from a guy who came to a 190-yardpar-3 over water, dunked his first shot, then casually pulled out the platinumball and hit it onto the green before anyone could tell him what it was.
The next day wewere split into foursomes according to handicap (I'm a 15), and my groupstarted on the 5th hole. Tiger was camped out on the 3rd. We played decentlythrough the round, but you could feel the tension mount as number 3approached.
"How you guyshittin' 'em?" Tiger asked as he teed up a ball. "O.K.," weresponded. Tiger punched a little seven-iron directly over the pin, the ballstopping about eight feet away.
It was our turn.We froze. Finally, I stepped forward. "What'd that feel like, Tiger?" Iasked. "Yep," was his reply. "About that." It was quiet for amoment, then everyone burst into laughter. "It's playing about 150,"Tiger said.
I hit a goodseven-iron but ended up in a greenside bunker. Approaching the green, I wasfeeling good about my sand shot. I practice them often and had been hittingthem well all day. I entered the bunker and took one last look at where Iwanted the ball to land. I noticed I was eye level with Tiger's shoes, and withthat sight the weight of the moment struck all at once. I could literally feelmy shoulders tighten.
Naturally Ibladed it. Badly. Right across the green, where it crashed into Tiger's golfcart. "Did that hit the cart?" I asked him. "No, you're good,"he replied, showing the good manners and patience he had displayed throughout.I finished up with double bogey and moved on to the 4th tee.
Tiger again hitfirst, and I have to admit that being on the tee with him swinging driver allout was a nearly religious experience. Being from Columbus, Ohio, I'd seenTiger play at the Memorial many times, but I wasn't prepared for what I canonly describe as a gust that came from his direction after the ball was on itsway. The sound was extraordinary, pure and unlike any I've ever heard. He wasdisappointed in the slight push, but we were happy to benefit from the 315yards of travel (my team tied for third). After Tiger said goodbye, we made ourway to the ball in silence. As I stood over the result of Tiger's drive,preparing to hit, I turned to my playing partners and asked, "Was that coolor what?!"
Riedel, 40, is anetwork administrator at a law firm and a member of the Rainbow Golf League atMentel Memorial Golf Course.
GOLF PLUS will next appear in the Oct. 29 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
by JAMES P. HERRE
The big boys are done, so the Silly Season might aswell be starting now.
The Phil Mickelson--Vijay Singh rivalry bloomed inMontreal
[SOFT AND FRIENDLY + SPIKE LOVER] * [HARD GUY + BIGNEEDLER] = BRAWL IN MONTREAL
COURTESY OF JIM RIEDEL (RIEDEL)
MAGIC MOMENT The author played a hole and then some with Woods after winning golf's version of Lotto.
COLUMBIA PICTURES/PHOTOFEST (STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN); FABIAN BIMMER/AP (PUNK ROCKERS); TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION/PHOTOFEST (JOHN WAYNE); TED S. WARREN/AP (SPACE NEEDLE); MORRY GASH/AP (MICKELSON AND SINGH)