FARMINGDALE, NY – Tiger Woods stood at Bethpage Black's 15th Fairway on Thursday, waiting to be hit when retired Mets third baseman David Wright squatted in a squat squat a few yards away. The ropes asked Wright, if he could take a picture. As Wright approached, he clumsily stood beside another onlooker, an adult man in overalls designed as a tiger costume.
Would Wright also pose with the faux-tiger? No, this man did not even lean against. His gaze never left Woods, who had competed for the first time last month since winning the Masters [19659-003].
"I left my onesie at home," Wright said after sitting down and returning to one of New York's most admired and beloved sports figures, but during the uneven opening round of Woods with two over par 72 at the PGA Most of the time, he was just another golf fan circling the tiger's sun.
"I got nervous when I was just on the driving range, the crowd was so big," Wright said.
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 United States Open Champion, described the scene as follows: "I think there were about 40,000 out there, 35,000 to Tiger, 4,000 in the merchandise tent, and maybe we had a thousand on the track between Holes went out to find tigers. "
McDowell from Northern Ireland dropped off Woods about 30 minutes, calmly across the square, carding a 70 that left him seven shots behind leader Brooks Koepka trying defending his PGA 2018 title as much as McDowell enjoys playing in front of an audience, he also found it advantageous to play in front of relatively few people.
"It gives you the ability to stay under the radar and your work McDowell said.
Woods The 43-year-old has by no means played under radar, let alone with a PGA championship he has won four times, most recently in 2007.
p he made a tournament debut in 1997, four months after a 12-stroke triumph at the Masters for the first of his 15 major titles. One of these championships took place in 2002 at the United States Open in Bethpage Black, where Woods completed 15 strokes in front of a professional journeyman named Jason Caron, who finished in 30th place.
The 46-year-old Caron has not had a full season on the PGA tour since 2003, but he was back in Bethpage Black on the field and not in the tight galleries around Woods on Thursday after coming away with a sixth place finish the PGA had qualified Professional Championship.
Now the chief pro at the Mill River Club at Oyster Bay, about 16 km from Bethpage, ended Caron on Thursday with a straight par 70. Like Woods, he has changed a lot since 2002.
"When I see Greg Norman or Tiger on the track, I get a bit nervous," Caron said about the PGA Tour days. "That was part of my problem back then."
On Thursday he was relegated to 17th place with 34 places ahead of Woods. "Can I get a picture of it?" Caron asked after his round. "It is great."
Caron did not understand the picture, but his 6-year-old daughter Caroline left with a souvenir. Wood's caddy, Joe LaCava, gave her the glove that Woods had used in the round.
On the eve of the first round, Caron spoke with a friend, Brett Quigley, another former member of the PGA Tour, who told Caron I should be lucky to start with the first hole and not the tenth hole, a 500- Yard Par 4 with a fairway squeezed by sand fingers.
"That could be difficult," Caron recalled Quigley.
] Tell Woods about it. He joined forces with Koepka and reigning British Open champ Francesco Molinari. The last time Woods hit, he hung his head after missing the fairway by less than a foot at 10am. From the right, Woods headed for the fairway. His third shot, 83 yards from the hole, flew through the green. After chopping off at six feet, he bet two for a double bogey six.
Woods got back one of the punches on the 15th, a par-4 that was 486 meters long when he hit the fairway with his drive, and hit a stinger at 16 feet and made the putt.
"That's sick," Wright said admiringly as he watched Wood's approach.
Another double bogey on No. 17 pushed him on three, but birdies on No. 1 and 2 plus an eagle at No. 4 – which required a putt of 30 meters – moved Woods to one underneath and sent his gallery in rage. But then his momentum crashed. He shot three of his last five holes.
"It certainly was not as clean as I would like it to be," said Woods, who missed a planned nine-hole workout on Wednesday, feeling sick, although he refused to show any physical discomfort for his problems to blame the place.
"I feel fine," Woods said.
Wright's resignation from baseball was accelerated by chronic neck, shoulder and back injuries, so he can estimate it better than most, which saw Woods return to the winners' circle after four back surgeries on his journey back.
But he also immediately felt connected to Koepka, whose great-uncle Dick Groat won the prize for the most valuable player in the National League in 1960 as a star shortstop for the Pirates of Pittsburgh.
Koepka raved about playing professional baseball as a kid, but decided to play golf because he did not have enough power on the plate. He spent some time Wednesday with Wright, who said, "I wanted to golf with him and he wanted to talk to me baseball."
When Woods and his obsessive workouts launched the era of golfers as undisputed athletes, Koepka The 29-year-old took the mold and enlarged it. He has won three of the last eight majors.
Koepka held the lead for most of the lap on Thursday, but when Woods passed the track, spectators left him unaware of who they thought was No. 1.
Calls to Woods included: "I'm playing golf because of you, boss!"