Tales from the tour in 2009
For a select few, the airline of choice is TWA – Tiger Woods
The world’s No. 1 player has been flying private for most of his
professional career, and most recently flew home from Australia
with his mother, three close friends and his office manager. On
rare occasions, Woods has flown commercial to Dubai on Emirates
But when was the last time he flew in coach class?
“On a really long flight?” Woods replied a few months ago
while in Shanghai. “Probably in college.”
That took him back to his freshman year at Stanford. He flew to
Paris for the World Amateur Team Championship in 1994 when he
played alongside Todd Demsey, Allen Doyle and John Harris.
“That was back when they still had smoking sections in the very
back of the plane for international flights,” Woods said. “I was
in the row right in front of the smoking section. I asked the
flight attendant if I could lay down on the floor. The rules were a
little different back then. Then I asked her if I could get
something to drink. She asked me how old I was, and I told her I
He laughed, choosing not to finish the story.
Woods can be anywhere at the moment, although various reports
have put him in Florida and Arizona, on a plane to Sweden and on a
boat to the Bahamas, even though his yacht is still docked.
While he has not played since Nov. 15 in Australia, the
competition has been as fierce as ever – not against Phil Mickelson
or any other player, rather the paparazzi. Since driving his SUV
into a tree outside his Florida home, setting off an explosive and
incredible sex scandal that dominated news in December, Woods has
yet to be seen.
Some say the first picture of him could bring as much as
$100,000. Photographers have staked out his yacht in south Florida
and his home near Orlando. One place he probably won’t be found –
at the back of a commercial airliner.
The search for Tiger capped off a bizarre month at the end of a
year that featured more than just birdies and bogeys. These are
some of the tales from the tour:
Mark Calcavecchia doesn’t pay much attention to life outside of
golf. Heck, it took him seven times playing Turnberry before he
noticed that stone monument atop a hill next to the 12th green that
commemorates the lost airmen during two World Wars.
Calcavecchia was at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
when he was told the story about a writer who inquired about Tiger
Woods’ pro-am group and introduced himself to Jerry Yang,
co-founder of Yahoo! The writer not only asked Yang what he did for
a living, he followed up by asking what he did at Yahoo!
Calcavecchia smiled and looked away.
“I think I can top that one,” he said. “Jerry was my partner
the last time I played here.”
Calcavecchia said he called his wife the night before the
tournament to tell her about meeting his amateur for the week,
describing him as a great guy and that they would have a good time
over the next few days.
His wife asked the name of the amateur.
“So I tell her, ‘Jerry Yang, he’s like the chairman or CEO or
CFO or something like that … of Yoohoo. You know, that chocolate
drink? That’s one of my favorite drinks. I was thinking maybe he
can get a couple of cases shipped to us.”’
Asked if she recalled the conversation, Brenda Calcavecchia
rolled her eyes and smiled.
Scott Sajtinac, the caddie for Paul Goydos, flew out early to
Memphis, Tenn., to walk the golf courses used for U.S. Open
qualifying and compile a yardage book. One of the courses thought
he was trying to make money off the club and cut short his
Sajtinac did the best he could with the map drawings, and the
frustration was evident in a note he left his fellow caddies in the
yardage book, in which he referred to “minor political
restraints” that kept him from spending more time on the course
for a proper drawing.
“For those of you that will approach me complaining that this
is not a high-quality Picasso job, may I give you this advice: DO
NOT,” the note said. “By obtaining my book, you have saved
yourself some 20 hours-plus work and a whole lot of heartache. This
book will get you through the round just fine.”
Among those who didn’t get through was his boss. Goydos missed a
6-foot birdie on the last hole and failed to advance in a
Few golf courses elicit such a wide range of descriptions like
the TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players Championship. Several players
were asked this year to describe the course in one word. Padraig
Harrington served up “exciting.” Tiger Woods opted for
“tricky.” Paul Goydos called it “surprising.”
Geoff Ogilvy was stumped. He is considered among the most
eloquent players on the PGA Tour, someone who puts great thought
into every answer and usually nails it. On this occasion, he
couldn’t come up with the proper description.
Five days later, Ogilvy was headed for another middling result.
He has never finished in the top 10 at The Players Championship,
missing as many cuts as he has made. Walking off the 14th tee,
Ogilvy saw the reporter who had asked him the question earlier in
the week and called him over.
“Annoying,” he said, with no context, although it was quite
clear what he meant.
Stewart Cink knew he would get his fill of questions about Tiger
Woods and the sex scandal during the Chevron World Challenge in
December, and he didn’t shy away from answering them – on Tuesday,
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
After the third round, and another batch of questions, Cink
called a reporter over to where he was signing autographs.
“Are you going to be writing stories about Tiger?” he said
quietly. “Could you somehow work in there that it’s been real easy
for everyone in our country – including PGA Tour players, writers,
TV people, everybody – to whip up on Tiger? But let’s not forget
that we all make mistakes. While it’s easy to tee off on somebody
in the press, they deserve for us to remember that we also make
And with that, he reached for another flag and kept signing.
One of the most poignant moments of 2009 came on the Monterey
Peninsula for Phil Mickelson’s caddie, only it wasn’t a
Jim “Bones” Mackay helped arrange a golf trip for close friend
Bob Carson, father of Eve Carson, the North Carolina student body
president who was shot to death in 2008. They wanted him to get
away for a week and spend time with friends on a golf course.
As Carson later noted, it was a trip of incomparable
camaraderie, a time for sharing burdens, some larger than others,
and a chance for a friend to be lifted up. Mackay said the first
round of golf was at Cypress Point on a peaceful morning of
stunning beauty. What took his breath away, however, was when he
walked into the pro shop.
By coincidence, the staff that day was dressed in a shade of