Monday, August 21, 2006

Witness to History - COLUMNIST - Wojciechowski: Woods is greatest individual athlete ever

To the sentiment expressed above, all I can say is: Yes, he is. I stood five feet away from him Friday, and you can just sense all of it--the power, the focus, the mental strength--everything that makes Tiger Woods a man above the realm he has chosen to dominate.

To stroll the damp pathways of Medinah on Friday was to see the disparity between Tiger and the rest writ large. Where he had been there was emptiness; where he was there was a mob. Where he was going there was mounting anticipation.

We spent most of the day where he was going, parking ourselves in the bleachers at the seventh green for an hour before his arrival in order to get a bird's eye view of the man. He did not disappoint, missing by inches a very long eagle putt and then looking downcast upon making only a very easy birdie. Arriving at 12 ahead of him, we got to see an excellent approach and a rare misread of a putt. And after soaking at 17, we saw him make a simple par.

These sound like mostly ordinary moments, and they were. But watching Tiger, you see his will to win. And if you watched over the weekend, you saw over and over the genius for the game that we saw when he drilled his long putt on 7 so close to the hole.

This is not to say that only Tiger can impress; Michael Campbell made a remarkable birdie putt on 17, and a chip shot from the bottom of the steep lakeside hill on 12 that climbed 40 feet but managed to stop almost on a dime was a thing of beauty. But there is something about Tiger. He makes all of it look easy.

Medinah was beautiful and organized; if the greens played a little soft and yielded low scores, the members can console themselves that they were exceptional hosts. There were long-ish lines for food but none for the bathrooms, and while cell phones were banned, free phones were available all over the course. Even simple things like the buses to the various lots around Chicagoland were handled with care, with the result that an event with as many attendees as a rock concert felt as calm as a nice walk in the park.

Which, come to think of it, is probably just how it felt for Tiger.

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