How Me and Tiger Woods Almost Had a Thing
douglas imbrogno | The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament is underway this week at the posh resort in the misty West Virginia hills. Last year, brought Tiger Woods to the resort for his first ever game of golf in the state (though he canceled out of this year’s tourney because of an injury). I note this only in the service of a confession. A confession I have kept hidden until now.
Bless me, father, for I have sinned.
See, I almost ruined Tiger Woods first official tee-off in the Great State of West Virginia. I still cringe at the memory. Isn’t it weird how memories of near social disasters of magnificent proportion STILL make us cringe even though nothing — almost — didn’t happen?
Let’s roll tape.
It is a misty morning at the Greenbrier Classic a year ago — 7 a.m. on July 4, 2012. We are standing at the Pro-Am round that would precede the start of the official tourney the next morning. Tiger is playing the course, his first ever game of golf in the Mountain State, along with Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, his son Jay Justice and Greenbrier official John Klemish. Everyone is gathered at the first hole of the legendary Old White course, which opened in 1914. President Woodrow Wilson was among the first golfers to tee off at the course.
As you’ll see and hear on the tape clip above, Tiger approaches the tee as an announcer underscores the momentousness of the occasion. I have set up a Canon camera on a tripod about ten feet from the tee. Tape is rolling.
Then, I get my great idea.
I should get a close-up still shot of Tiger right as he swings! View the video clip. See how quiet it is? Birdies chirping. The whoosh of air. The silent glow of Tiger’s worldwide fame emanating from his golf pants. Much of the upper tier of West Virginia’s state media — such as it is — was gathered about hole 1, a small bristling army of cameras, microphones, hand-held recorders and notebooks just out of camera range, along with PGA officials, Tiger fans, Greenbrier honchos.
Doug, intrepid multimedia reporter, multi-threat media man, positions himself off to the side of Tiger about eight feet away as the golfer eyes downwind. I hold aloft my iPhone. I frame the legendary golfer as his golf club wiggles in anticipation of his drive-to-come.
Then, a thought comes to me: ‘Does an iPhone make a sound when you shoot a still photograph?’ I have forgotten. Tiger pulls his club back high. He arcs the club forward, approaching the ball.
Doug presses a button to capture his momentous-to-be-still shot!
Damn! Dammit!! An iPhone makes a really loud ka-THUNK! sound when it shoots a still photo on a still morning with everyone in deep respectful silence.
Now, I remember.
Here is what happens in the next few seconds:
1) Tiger, distracted by the click, muffs his driver to the left, gouging a huge divot into the mondo-legendary course. His ball dribbles and spurts to the left, not quite coitus interruptus, but tiger interruptus. The balls beams Greenbrier owner Jim Justice in the shin and he doubles over, grabbing his leg, then falls to one knee.
2) Tiger swings around reproachfully, looking for the offender, the full-bore ignoramus asshat who has obviously never learned the all-quiet-on-the-set preliminary shut-up routine to a golfer’s teeing off.
3) His eyes find me, boring the same kind of killer, twin laser-beam eye-look his wife, Elin Nordegren, blasted when she bashed his car with a golf club after his many infidelities were revealed.
4) Security grabs me and escorts me to the Greenbrier’s little-known holding cell. I am lambasted by lower-echelon Greenbrier officials, then irate mid-level PGA course officials, one of whom menaces me with a six-iron. Finally, Justice himself enters the small metal room, which smells of piss and vomit. He pins me against the wall with his oversize frame, accuses me of ruining his tournament and disgracing the state of West Virginia.
5) I am ejected from the Greenbrier. Word gets out. The clip of the divot gets on to Golf TV, then is turned into a looping YouTube video. My name is mud. My journalism career ruined, I take to drinking Mad Dog 40-40 and various malt liquors in large glass bottles.
6) A year later, my newspaper, the Charleston Gazette does a sad, sympathetic feature on the homeless bearded guy who washes your windshield for a dollar at Quarrier and Summer streets in downtown Charleston, who used to be such a promising guy. Don’t EVER snap his photo with your iPhone because if hears the ‘SNAP-CLICK!!!!!’ he might go all postal all you. Give him a dollar, though. He needs it.
+ + +
That’s not quite what happened. Although every time I re-run the memory of that moment, my shoulders literally tense at what could have resulted. What really happened is that Tiger got off his shot cleanly, smiled and proceeded down the course. See the video below, which I continued to shoot as he made his way around the course. I deleted the raw tape, but will confess that I edited out the sound of the iPhone click in the video above, which you could hear, plus the remonstrations of aghast PGA officials that followed.
But I almost did get ejected. As my iPhone clicked, two PGA officials swung on me: “What are you you doing?! You idiot! You need to be quiet! Haven’t you ever covered golf?!” Or something hostile, cold and deadly serious like that. I muttered something miserable and pathetic, like: “I didn’t know it was gonna make a noise…” The PGA guy sneered: “Yes, you did…” He tried to corner me, pre-eject-wise. But I grabbed my camera and tripod and dashed after Tiger. The PGA guy trailed me for several holes, eying me with evil intent.
I was a good little media boy after that, iPhone buried deep in pocket.
Yet now, even a year later, my shoulders still physically flinch when I recall Tiger’s driver approaching that ball.
I think I need a couch and some talk therapy.