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Selfies, stalled buggies and confusing hurling with lacrosse - Inside the ropes with Tiger Woods

The42 followed Tiger Woods’ entire round at Adare Manor from inside the ropes – here’s what we saw.

Tiger Woods tees off at the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor.
Tiger Woods tees off at the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THEY CAME TO see Tiger Woods, and so they lined either side of the pathways sloping from the practice putting green to the first tee at Adare Manor. 

Backs were turned to the green: the world’s number one player, Scottie Scheffler, had to politely elbow his way through a huddle of ignorant backs to leave the green and return to the Carriage House ahead of his round. 

Just after 2pm, Tiger arrived in the middle of a convoy of buggies, glassy-eyed, staring vacantly ahead, with a security man standing on the buggie’s back to give the vehicle the look of an ersatz Popemobile. Though an entirely fallible one. 

The buggy cut out about 100 metres from the first tee and the precision of Adare Manor’s gardening was at fault. Driving at the back of the tenth green to the first tee, the driver caught the apron of the green – forbidden territory for buggies – and the GPS cut the machine dead. The driver couldn’t get the buggy restarted as the cameras swooped, and a disapproving Woods got up and walked the rest of the way to the tee box. The buggy jolted into life as soon as the world had deserted it, and the driver had the ashen-faced look of a guy who knew he had blown the one thing he had to do for Tiger Woods. 

40,000 people poured into Adare Manor for the JP McManus Pro-Am today, to watch too many stars and legends but only one myth. Tiger Woods is in that rare firmament: he is a sporting great whose myth has caught up and attached itself to his life. Where Tiger Woods walks, the mythical figure of Tiger walks with him.

Even if the myth now walks with a limp. 

Thousands of jostled for position and picked their spots hours in advance for their best view of Woods along the course, to get their fleeting glimpse of the man making what is likely his final playing appearance in Ireland and what may be one of his final playing appearances anywhere. That he chose to move around the course in a buggy, rather than walk, is proof that even this career has a shelf life. 

tiger-woods Fans jostle for a picture of Tiger Woods. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Fans held out their phones and pleaded for his attention, for this was the one moment when their world briefly pinballed into Planet Tiger. What Woods calls minutes, those who stare back at him call once-in-a-lifetime moments. At one point on the 12th tee, a fan thanked Woods with disarming earnestness for simply looking at her when she took her photo. 

It’s a curious thing, and it serves to more deeply attach Woods to his own myth: all of this filtered attention takes him out of the present and into the future, existing in people’s mind as the selfie that will be taken; as the autograph that will be shown at the clubhouse; as the social media post that will rack up likes. 

Maybe that is the price of true fame. When you’re in public, there’s no such thing as living in the moment.

Nobody draws eyeballs quite like Tiger Woods: Newstalk played out a six-second interview of searing Woods insight – “I’m here to have fun” – simply because it was Tiger Woods. Stars trailed in his wake: Michael Carrick flew in solely for the chance to watch Woods in the flesh for the first time, John Kiely stood for a photograph with Woods and JP McManus on the first tee; in fact, Woods may now have posed alongside a Limerick hurler more often than Liam McCarthy. 

He played with the Smurfit family, who drew him in Saturday’s draw for the second-straight time. Playing alongside amateurs only served to heighten the absurdity of Woods’ existence. They were unnerved not by the giant shadow of Tiger Woods across their shots, but by the thousands of fans that narrowed the fairways. One of his playing partners had Woods watching over him as he sank a short putt on the 14th green, and when I asked him what it’s like to try and make a putt in front of Tiger Woods, he replied that “he’s not the issue, it’s everyone else that’s the issue”, gesturing to the masses of people who materialised and he couldn’t hit with a golf ball.

Woods’ reception on the early tee-boxes hemmed in by fans was distinct. The receptions for the other star names on show were raucous – Shane Lowry was roared like a barman announcing a lock-in, Rory McIlroy’s cheers on the first tee were peppered with maternal shouts of Well done Rory!but Woods wasn’t greeted quite as exuberantly. The reception was a little more tentative, nervous; it was a collection of people terrified that they would be the one to sneeze at the top of Tiger Woods’ backswing. 

A few brave souls broke the ice, with one fan shouting, ‘Do you drink Guinness, Tiger?’ at the fourth tee-box. Woods was happy to banter along, replying, “in spurts.” He then went foraging for information on what was a par-three, asking the crowd whether it demnded an eight or seven-iron off the tee. Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau preceded Woods by drawing a seven-iron and sending the ball flying over the green, and so the crowd said ‘eight’. Woods concurred. His tee-shot landed within 20 feet of the flag, an approach then ruined by an appallingly tame putt. 

james-hogan A fan shows off his Tiger Woods tattoo at Adare Manor. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Maybe that conversation with the crowd was classically transactional, but here’s the thing: Woods was here to have fun. Sure, the Pro-Am isn’t Championship golf but seasoned observers said he was far more relaxed and jocular than he had been at previous stagings of the tournament. He was happy to play to the crowd: after he hit a perfect tee shot on six, Sky’s Wayne Reilly shouted theatrically, ‘Where’d the ball go Tiger?’, he replied, ‘On the green, baby!’ and flung his arms in the air. 

He was self-effacing: killing time on the tee-box ahead of that shot on six, he asked Spieth what club he used. “Six”, replied Spieth, to which Tiger replied, “Okay, so a five for me”. Spieth laughed and then reminded Tiger, “No it’s not.” Tiger Woods may try to be self-deprecating, but, ironically, he’s not very good at it. 

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A delay in play at the eleventh green afforded Limerick hurlers Gearoid Hegarty and Barry Nash a chance to sidle over to Woods and ask for a photo, who enquired about hurling by asking, “Is it like lacrosse?” The questions he asked from there were an insight into Woods moreso than Hegarty or Nash or Limerick or hurling or anything else.

barry-nash-and-gearoid-hegarty-with-tiger-woods Woods chats with Gearoid Hegarty and Barry Nash. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“What’s old for your sport?”, he asked, before then asking about the hurlers’ training regime, walking away with a laugh of how they, like him, spent everyday in an ice bath. When a marshal asked Woods how his body was holding up on the ninth fairway, he exclaimed, “Still attached!”, and pressed down on his buggy’s accelerator. 

You wonder what moment Woods is living in, because the present moment doesn’t exactly sound like a thrillride. Why, exactly is he doing this? Not his turning up to Adare Manor – he has a genuine friendship with JP McManus, the man to whom no golfer can say no – but why is he putting himself through this physical torture? He withdrew from the US PGA Championship and skipped the US Open, and today he decided he couldn’t walk Adare Manor.  

An answer was found on the 12th hole. Standing on the deep slope of the green’s front face, Woods chipped the ball up to the left of the hole, catching the green’s undulation perfectly, off which the ball skipped and scuttled deliciously into the hole for an eagle. The crowd’s roar rumbled and exploded in a moment of pure, pulsing electricity. Woods doffed his cap and aired his balding head. This is the weird contradiction of the crowd. They fumble for their phones and take Woods out of the moment, then put them away and then produce the roar to make him feel fully, thrillingly within it. 

That was Woods’ best shot of the day. He carded a five-over par round of 77. He is in a tie for 43rd place, with only six players shooting a worse score than him. (Jordan Spieth was disqualified for forgetting to hole out on the twelfth green.) 

But nobody came to see Tiger Woods’ score.

They came to see Tiger Woods. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from the JP McManus Pro-Am, Adare Manor

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