A spectator's guide to following Tiger

April, 10, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The directions begin on page 17 of the Spectator Guide. The byline is Robert Tyre Jones, Jr. He first wrote the letter in 1949 and, despite everything changing about the game of golf, his advice holds up. In his simple prose, he directs fans around the course, telling them where to stand and what to look for while they're standing there. He begins with a viewing area behind the No. 2 green, a short five-minute walk from the main scoreboard.

This happens to be one of the most attractive gallery centers I've seen on any course. Within a radius of 100 yards, one may observe fives scenes of action. For my part, I shall first want to watch some of the second shots to No. 2 Green.

Tiger Woods looks down the barrel of the par 5, between the two bunkers, at the second green. His tee shot landed in the trap, and he was forced to lay up. Woods seemed small in the distance, a bright red shirt against black pants. The colors, once intimidating, seem sort of sad when he's struggling.

"He's still in Sunday clothing," a fan standing by the green says.

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Tiger Woods
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesTiger Woods making a charge Sunday.

Woods launches the ball high into the air. It bounces, turns and snuggles up to the hole. The fans five and six deep around the green, following Jones' advice, yell and clap.

Woods rolls in the birdie putt.

Next, let us move a few steps to No. 3 tee to watch some drives. The problem here is to place the tee shot on the right-hand side of the fairway -- the favored position from which to approach the green -- avoiding any tendency to hook which might mean bunker trouble.

Tiger is close enough to touch. He reaches over to his bag and rips off the driver cover. That's enough to send a shock through the crowd.

"Yeah!" several people yell.

Everyone claps in anticipation.

Stevie Williams points into the distance -- toward the right-hand side of the fairway? -- and Tiger peers down range. Woods crushes the ball, walking after it a few steps. He likes it. Williams opens a bottle of water and finishes it in two gulps. Both men wait. When Martin Laird's driver makes contact, a loud metallic whack, Williams wheels around to get the bag. Tiger immediately starts walking to his ball.

Another few paces and we are now watching approach shots to the No. 7 postage-stamp green. This is the only heavily bunkered and, along with No. 12, the only small sized greens on the course. While the second shot is normally played with a short iron, the judgment of distance and wind must be very accurate and the shot well struck in order to stop it on the putting surface.

Forrest and Karen Robinson stand just to the side of the green, waiting on players in the next group to hit their shots. Forrest was here in 1997 when Tiger won for the first time. He and his son, Matt, drove over from Atlanta. Matt was on the high school golf team, just six years younger than Woods, and both he and his dad realized they were seeing the game changed before their eyes. Tiger hit the ball farther, with more action, than anyone they'd ever seen.

"You could feel the electricity," Forrest says. "It was unbelievable because everyone was following Tiger. You got caught up in the river of people flowing with him."

Forrest and Karen watch Tiger making his way down the third fairway.

"He doesn't have the crowds with him like he did back then," Forrest says.

Their house is divided on Tiger. Forrest wants him to get his mojo back. His wife? Not so much.

"She doesn't care for him at all," he says.

"I pull for him to lose," she says.

"I can separate the personal from the professional," he says.

The No. 8 tee is next door, where the tournament players are called upon to make a carry of about 305 yards over a large bunker in order to reach the favored position on the right center of the fairway.

The crowd is thin, waiting on Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker to arrive at the tee. The scoreboard rises steep above them. The fans see the numbers go up next to Tiger's name: birdie, birdie. He's at 7-under and Rory is just now making his way to the first tee. George Mize, from Columbus, Ga., sees the score and turns to a buddy.

"Tiger birdied," he says. "This is gonna get interesting, my friend. I hope he can get close to 12. If he can do that, he can put some fire down Rory's neck."

Wright Thompson | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) is a senior writer for ESPN.com and The Magazine. He has been featured in seven editions of Best American Sports Writing and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.




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