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Every Hole is the 19th Hole

Short story By: Bill Rayburn
Humor



A run-of-the-mill professional golfer goes up against Tiger at The Masters, with mixed results. (approx. 6500 words)


Submitted:Jul 23, 2012    Reads: 84    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   


Every Hole is the 19th Hole

When I asked Jerry what club I should use, I expected a quick, precise answer, as is his norm.

Instead, he said, loud enough for the gallery lined 4 deep around the 1st tee to hear clearly.

"I don't think it matters."

We liked to fuck around on the gold course, Jerry and I. We had more than our share of laughs, usually at each other's expense, and to the great enjoyment of whatever group of people happened to be following me that day.

But this was the year's first major, The Masters. And we'd been warned in the past by a couple of the old southern dudes in green jackets that randomly roamed the course and clubhouse, to keep our irreverence to a low roar.

Augusta National was not known for its sense of humor.

And usually Jerry would wait until the round was underway before engaging me in this fashion. So I looked at him quizzically.

He was grinning.

"What?" I asked. We alternated between foil, straight man and quipster.

He repeated, "I don't think it's gonna matter. You always go right here. I'm just assuming your 2nd shot will be from the rough on the right. I don't even watch you hit anymore on this tee."

People were laughing, though a couple of them looked stunned at this breech of common golf etiquette between player and caddy.

We'd been on tour long enough for most players and fans to know that we sometimes do this.

I figured Jerry was trying to loosen me up a little, it being the Masters and all, so I went along. It couldn't hurt.

"I guess that job interview went well for you then?"

He chuckled. "Don't worry; I'll be on your loop through tomorrow, until you miss the cut. Then I'll probably hang with that Woods fella for the weekend."

"James Woods is here? The actor? I loved him in "Casino".

And just like that the crowd was on my side, which appeared to be Jerry's intention. Several laughed out loud. Even Jerry let out a chuckle, something he rarely did. I noticed the starter, an enormously fat man with a straw hat and a forest green jacket of a size clearly up into the 50 Wides, microphone dangling from his right hand, swinging it slowly to and fro by the cord, as if he was considering hitting us with it. He was glaring at both of us. I gave him a huge grin and an exaggerated thumbs up. None of this was lost on the gallery.

I grabbed my driver out of Jerry's hand in mock anger. My playing partner that day was a young kid whom Id never met until about three minutes ago. He seemed like a good lad, but nervous. Hell, even I was a little nervous. This was the fucking Masters, for Christ sake.

His name was Jethro and I knew Jerry would have some fun with that over 18 holes. I made a mental note to take the 'over' on the number of times Jerry would reference a rope belt and bestiality.

Jethro was looking at us like we were the big cats at the zoo, just prior to feeding time, and he didn't know what the fuck might happen. I guess he was one of those unfamiliar with our act.

Tough shit, kid. Life sucks; wear a fucking helmet.

I teed up my ball as the pissed off scorer read my name, unable to keep a hint of scorn out of his voice, and then mispronouncing my hometown on purpose. The uptight prick.

Jerry immediately corrected him when he finished. Loudly, to the merriment of the crowd. The starter was gonna be glad when we left his tee.

When I sliced my drive into the thick rough on the right off the tee, I made an obvious grimace, banged my club, grabbed it by the hosel near the oversized metal head of the driver and pointed it, grip first, at Jerry and yelled, "OKAY! You were right. Don't let it happen again!"

Even Jethro laughed.

Then the punk had the nerve to go up and stripe one down the fucking middle, about 40 yards further than my ball. I walked past him as he was posing at the top of his follow through and muttered just loud enough for him to hear, "That will be enough of that, shit for brains." I turned and winked at him to let him know I was kidding, and he did something that surprised me. He blew me a kiss and mouthed, "Bite me".

This was going to be a fun round of golf.

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My name is Trevor Fourscore. Really. You would think I was destined for either golf, or as a speechwriter for a guy named Lincoln, with a name like that. And you'd be half right.

Most people call me T-Fore, for a couple of reasons. It shortens my four syllable name to a comfortable two, and the 'fore' part coincides nicely with my wildness off the tee.

I've been on the PGA Tour for almost five years. I've got one win, four years ago, at a little tournament that no longer exists down in New Orleans. None of the top ten players in the world were there. The field was small and though the three stroke victory fattened my checking account nicely to the tune of $579,000, before taxes, my name remained for the most part below the radar of the average golf fan.

Then I brought Jerry aboard, and we took our dog and pony show on the road. And anonymity was replaced by controversy.

Golf, even today, is still a sport mostly steeped in history and reverence. Jack and Arnie are still very much an everyday presence on tour. They both host their own well-attended invitation-only tournaments each year, which Tiger always seems to win.

There is of course plenty of fresh new blood on tour, but no one has come close to resonating, or making an impact, like Tiger has since 1996. And I can tell you, though it's a horribly kept secret, the PGA powers that be live in daily fear that Tiger will walk away at some point, and the sport will never be the same.

And they're right. Anybody on tour notices the huge difference in gallery size when Tiger is not there. It's night and day. And that impacts so many areas. Souvenirs; golf attire, which has long been one of the biggest rip offs in sports, and of course, the food and beverage dollar. What you don't see on TV at tournaments is the long lines at every tournament that Tiger enters; at the beer kiosks, or the cocktail tents. Golf fans fucking drink. A lot. It is a culture thing. Those leather lunged idiots shouting "You Da MAN"? Those clowns are so drunk they couldn't drive a golf cart, let alone a car to get themselves home. And the PGA merely looks the other way at this.

I'm no prude. I like a cocktail as much as the next guy, sometimes more. And Jerry and I are constantly peeling back the velvet curtains to let the gallery see what the wizard is doing. The fans have always liked our act. The stuffy robots that populate the tour do nothing to bring in any revenue, yet most of the stultifying rules of deportment and behavior benefit only them. Our profane exchanges have cost me thousands of dollars over the years, as the hypocritical and anal set of rules the PGA forces its members to play under is strangely allowed to continue, unabated. They even fine Tiger when he drops the occasional club or F-bomb. If only he would say, "You know, FUCK you! You want me in Tallahassee next week for the Jagoff Open? Then get off my ass, dickwads." Those profanity rules would loosen up so fast; Tiger's mom would be dropping F-bombs like the Enola Gay.

Even Gary McCord, long the King of Irreverence on tour, now plying his sarcastic wares in the TV booth, shakes his head at me when he strolls by on the practice tee. He insists the only reason I get away with it is because I don't win. If I were cashing checks and raising trophies, they would force me to clean up my act. Or so he insists.

Fuck that. And fuck them. They'll get my sarcasm from me when they pry it from my cold, dead, calloused golf-glove wearing hand.

So I make a decent living. Enough to give Jerry his 10% and to keep gas in my Corvette and gin in my portable bar. I know it only takes one great week of golf on tour to literally turn a guy's life completely around. To go from $65 a night hotels, to rental cabins on the grounds at Augusta.

Of course, that great week needs to be on one of the four weeks a year that the Majors fall. Take this week's Masters. If I could win, here's what would come my way, in addition to the approximately $1.5 million winner's check: The Famous Green Jacket; an engraved Gold Medal; my name on the Masters trophy, as well as a replica for me to keep. Then, a five year exemption on the PGA Tour, which is like finding gold nuggets in your fucking stool. That means no grueling Q-School tournaments trying to get my Tour Card, which is akin to winning the golf lottery. A five year exemption into the other three Majors is part of the winning package, and also entry into the unofficial 5th Major, the Players Championship. And finally, perhaps the coolest thing; a lifetime exemption to play in The Masters. I could sip spiked Arnold Palmers in the lounge until my liver gives out.

That's a lot of golden balls on the table. A simple four day run of that table likely sets a golfer up for life.

I could groove on that.

Then there's the reality of it. I've never finished in the top ten in any of the 13 majors I've qualified for. In fact I've missed the cut in seven of those, though never here at The Masters. Which makes Jerry's crack on the first tee a nasty one that I will get him for later.

I've always been realistic about my golf game. I've had my hot rounds, sometimes even two or three hot rounds in a tournament. I shot 67 on Sunday to win my only time in New Orleans. So I CAN do it.

It just hasn't happened. Jerry thinks I drink too much and don't practice enough. I usually hear that from him as he sits next to me and puts another vodka tonic on my bar tab.

But we do have fun, and that alone separates us from the majority of the serious, reverent, god-fearing white guys on tour.

That's another subject I've mentioned in press conferences a couple of times, that makes the PGA pages in the back of the room suddenly start stepping from foot to foot, looking for an exit. Why hasn't the presence of Tiger brought more blacks on tour?

Tiger has made more money for all of us. To a man. He knows it, we know it, and the PGA knows it. But he's still basically the only visible black guy on tour. And it doesn't seem to bother him a bit. Probably too busy shuffling skanks in and out of his hospitality sweet at the Bellagio to notice.

But I love the life. I love the freedom. I love not working for anybody. And I love Jerry, almost in spite of him. He knows me; he knows when to push a button, and when to back off. What every good caddy needs to know. And simply put, he is a funny motherfucker. That alone is worth keeping him around.

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When I got to my ball in the rough, it was sitting down in a clump of thick grass, only the top third of it visible.

WTF!

Jerry chuckled when he saw it. He simply handed me my four iron, pointed toward the green, and backed away. A big help. I'm paying this asshole 10% of my take home for this?

I looked ahead and spotted Jethro's ball in the center of the fairway, fifty yards ahead of mine. He stood off to the left of it, grinning like a hooker on pay day. I resisted the temptation to flip him double birds.

I checked the tree tops for wind direction, knew I'd have to fly the bunker in front of the green, which was why Jerry handed me a four iron even though I was only 185 yards away. I had to carry this bastard to the green, no run up.

I set up, waggled the club a couple of times, and hit. I didn't fuck around. These guys who take longer to hit a shot than a Thai masseuse does to settle on a price drive me up the wall. Get up there and hit the goddamn thing. Even Tiger, who is basically Jesus Christ out here, takes some shit for his slow play.

I caught it as flush as I could, given the grass, and watched as it headed straight at the pin. Would it be long enough?

No. Shit.

Sand trap. Time to go to the beach.

My sand game, however, is one of the best on tour. Jerry says it's because I'm in the damn things all the time. Whatever.

I walked up even with Jethro's ball. He'd probably only need a 9 iron. I hate strong young pricks.

Jethro was in no hurry. He gabbed with his caddy about the wind, about his lie, about whether he should hit a full nine, or an easy eight.

I was about to bark at him, "Let's move it along, Beverly Hills boy," but he addressed his ball and I remained silent. He stood over it, waggling his club like a nervous 16 year old girl in her first back seat, and after about 15 seconds, hit it within two feet of my ball, right in the sand. I didn't even pretend to hide my grin. I winked at him as I walked past him. "Maybe just one more waggle woulda done it," and Jerry cackled loud enough for the gallery to hear him, even from the center of the fairway.

Jethro slammed his iron to the turf and glared at me.

Under his skin already. Damn, I wish this was match play. I'd eat this rube for lunch.

He had to hit his ball first, because I would have to stand on his ball to address mine. He left his first one on the beach; hitting it into the face and watching it roll back almost to his feet. Storming out of the trap, he handed his sand wedge to his caddy, who wiped the sand off the blade and handed it right back to him, backing away.

Jethro looked skyward and took a deep breath. "You're still away," I said, driving the nail in further.

He said nothing. He got back in, twisted his spikes from side to side for better purchase, and swung without a single waggle. The ball barely cleared the lip of the trap and landed about four feet short of the green, in some very short rough.

I pitched out to within 3 feet of the pin, and stepped out of the trap grinning like Roseanne Barr locked in a Cheesecake Factory for the night.

Jethro managed to chip up and down for 6, while I escaped with a par.

On number four, a par 3, I took out my 8 iron and stroked a high fade that landed on the front of the green and rolled up to within eight feet.

To the polite golf clapping, I took off my Oakland Raiders cap and bowed.

Jethro just glared at me.

Jerry looked poised to say something, but remained quiet.

Then, suddenly, as Jethro bent to put his tee in the ground, Jerry bellowed; "Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!"

Jethro straightened slowly and again glared over at both of us.

"Do you mind? This is the golf course; not a sports bar."

"Sorry kid." Jerry said. "Probably won't happen again."

I chuckled.

Poor Jethro and his caddy, who thus far had not said a word, were up against it if they really thought they were going to play a peaceful round.

I pointed down at Jethro's naked tee and said, "You're gonna have to put a ball on that, I fear."

He reached into his pocket and retrieved a ball and balanced it carefully on his tee.

At the top of his backswing, at least four cameras could be heard clicking.

His drive duck-hooked sharply left out of bounds. As I strode off the tee while he was still grimacing at the sight of his ball disappearing, I didn't look back. There would be no wink from Rope Belt Boy this time.

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So the front nine went like that. I played well, putted even better, and shot a 33, three under par. I was on the leader board, two behind some guy named Marty Murphy. I hope HE had a camera, 'cause he better take a picture of that scoreboard now. He would not be there for long.

Jethro started throwing clubs by the 7th hole. The first one, his five iron, went towards his caddy, who lept out of the way just in time. The second one, his nine iron on number 12, needed a snorkel to stay alive, as it sunk in the greenside lake, along with his golf ball. The crowd had started to get on him.

"Hey Jethro, let Granny have a shot," one leather lung shouted. Jerry and I laughed.

Rope Belt Boy shot 43 on the front. Jerry mercifully did not needle him.

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We had a twenty minute wait on the tenth tee, so I moseyed on over to Jethro.

"Tough front nine, huh?"

He nodded. "Couldn't hit the ball straight, 'cept for number one. And my short game fucking vanished."

I gave my best, "I've been there, buddy" look and stood silently next to him.

"Hey," he asked, as if he'd been storing it up. "How do you get away with the Raiders hat? It's against the rules."

I grinned at him. "I pay the fine. About $100 a week. Small price to pay for loyalty to my team. I was gonna write Al and ask him to subsidize me, but the creepy old fuck up and died on me."

"Aren't you worried the PGA will make you take it off?"

I scoffed. "One of these dickless security fucks? Are you serious? Jerry would have 'em pinned to the ground quicker than Kim Kardashian on a date with Mike Tyson after his fifth gin and tonic."

Jethro chuckled. "You got balls. How do you get away with the shit you pull, having only won once out here, in like, five years?"

"Ask McCord. He did it for a lot longer than I did, and he never fucking won a tournament."

"Really? McCord never won on tour?"

I nodded my head. "Same with Feherty. I guess being a funny guy doesn't equate into wins."

"But you got one."

"And maybe number two this week, Jethro. Three under with those two par fives on 13 and 15 coming up. You might be playing with the first round leader."

"I doubt that."

"Well, I smoked you by ten strokes on the front. Wanna bet I beat you by five more on the back? Say, $200?"

He stuck his hand out immediately. "You're on, T-Fore."

He had no right to call me that, having just met me, but I let it slide. He could call me fucktard if it meant takin' $200 of his money.

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I have never laughed out loud at an opponent on the golf course. Well, ALMOST never. Certainly not as a professional. That could get you a four iron so far up your ass, it comes out of the top of your skull like an umbrella stand.

But when Rope Belt Boy shanked his drive off the tenth tee, hitting a fat guy standing on the rope who wasn't looking, about 20 yards down the fairway, Jerry and were holding on to each other we were laughing so hard.

You don't see many shanks at this level. And even more rare at The Masters.

Jethro stood in pose, club over his head, as he watched in horror as his ball hit the fat guy in the ass, then bounced straight back out onto the ladies tea, probably saving him at least one stroke.

Once the ball came to a stop, he uncoiled and dropped his club in disgust.

"I think you'll be hitting first," I said quietly to him as I passed him and teed up my shot.

I ripped it down the middle, a good 290 yards and another 20 of roll. I gave Jethro a "is that what you were trying to do?" look and flipped my broken tee at him. He watched it land at his feet.

Even he had to laugh.

And we had begun the back nine at Augusta.

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After another birdie on the par five 13th, I stood at 5 under for the round, and in second place still. There was a new leader, however. Marty Murphy had gone to, I guess, where the Marty Murphy's of the world go. The new leader was a big name. Not a name from the Serengeti, more like the name you would like to see on your accountant's door. Phil Mickelson, in the 2nd to last threesome, was at 6 under through 10 holes. Not too bad, Lefty.

He'd shot 31 on the front, and then birdied 10 to take the lead.

Not bad for a guy in need of a sports bra.

On fifteen, after striping another one down the middle, going over 300 with the roll, leaving me a 5 metal to the green, I was standing in the fairway trying to gauge the wind, which on this hole could be very sneaky. Jethro was looking for his ball in the creek along the left. Normally I'd be helping the poor sod find his ball, but fuck him. $200 was $200.

Jerry handed me the club, pointed to the tree tops on the right and noted how they were swaying straight across the fairway, from right to left, hard.

"Aim right. Even if the wind suddenly dies, there's lots of green over there, you can still two putt for a four."

I nodded and addressed the ball. The gallery was sort of small, but that was no surprise. I may be known a little bit, but Jethro was a nobody, and receding even further which each snap hook off the tee.

I'd played a couple of times with Tiger, and it was a fucking circus. Forget silence. You just hope somebody didn't pop open a can of beer in your back swing.

I actually beat Tiger on one occasion, shooting a 69 to his 70. He was very gracious, and seemed to enjoy the banter between Jerry and me, once in a while throwing in a barb of his own. He was witty. And the babes. Oh fuck, the babes. His gallery looked like the front row at an Aerosmith concert from 1981. I've seen more than one big-titted girl lift her top for him. How in the fuck he ever concentrated enough to win like he does, I will never know. Christ, I had a woody for half the rounds I played with him.

No wonder the guy couldn't keep it in his pants. Who the fuck could?

So, one behind Phil, second shot to the par five, wind from right to left, 5 metal in hand. I set up, aiming about 20 yards right of the far left pin placement, and let her rip.

"Oh shit," I heard Jerry say.

It was going left. Right at the pin, actually, but that brought the creek in front of the green into play, if it was short.

The flight of the ball was, naturally, high with the club I used. Jerry and I stared it down.

With a gasp from the crowd around the green, it bounced just three feet past the creek bank, took a big hop, and skidded to a stop two feet from the pin.

Two feet.

For eagle.

And the lead at The Masters.

Kiss my ASS, Sports Bra Boy.

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Jethro, after being unable to find his ball, dropped one and, naturally, hit a low liner that three-hopped into the water fronting the green. The kid seemed to have an affinity for water. I figured his $200 would take care of most of my bar bill, maybe even some of Jerry's.

My short put was true, and there I was, on top of the leader board at Augusta.

I had Jerry take a picture of it with his cell phone. The number of golf deaths that have befallen first round leaders at this course was in the thousands. I was taking nothing for granted.

As we walked to the next tee, Jethro had this to say.

"Man, you are playing well, but it's real early. No real pressure yet."

I almost made him pay me the $200 right then and there, just for being a transparent fuck. Instead, during his backswing on the tee, I ripped the Velcro strap on my glove twice before he made contact. He topped it 10 yards past the lady's tee.

Jerry had to sit down on my bag he was laughing so hard.

I winked at Jethro. "Did you mention 'pressure', young man? She can be a fickle bitch."

Jerry started coughing and choking. I smacked him on the back and strolled down the fairway with the casual, confident jaunt of a leader.

I told you this was gonna be fun.

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The Grill Room at Augusta houses a huge bar with an enormous oil painting of the 13th hole on the wall behind it.

Jerry and me were reliving my birdie on that hole when Rope Belt Boy came into the bar, placed two crisp hundreds in front of me, slapped me on the shoulder and left, without comment.

It was the only thing he did all day, in my opinion, correctly.

Further down the bar, to my left, sat Mickelson and Gary McCord. They appeared to be sipping martinis. Jerry and I were nursing beers. It was too early for the hard stuff, not quite 4pm.

Lefty had noticed the money exchange with Jethro, and got up and slowly walked over.

I'd parred out from 16 on in, and stood alone at the top, minus 6 to Phil's minus 5. There were a couple more threesomes still out on the course, but nobody appeared to even be under par.

Phil stuck out his hand. "Well done, T-Four. Great round."

I shook his hand. He had the reputation of a Pollyanna and a disingenuous prick, but I'd always liked him. There were no discernable airs about him, which is saying something about a man most other golfers consider second only to Tiger. Tiger had such a haughty, 'don't dare fucking approach me' aura, he'd basically set himself up as a demi-god.

"Thanks Phil. Same to you." I signaled the always alert bartender to give Phil and Gary, who was watching intently from his stool, another round on me.

"Too bad we aren't playing together tomorrow." I didn't mean that. I knew playing with Jethro had made it easy to relax. Phil usually commanded the 2nd largest gallery next to you know who, and I didn't need that shit.

"Yeah," he said quietly. "Maybe Saturday, huh?"

"From your lips to God's ears," was all I could think to say. He slapped me on the back, thanked me for the drink and returned to his seat. McCord gave me the same look a zookeeper gives the bottom of his shoe after a long, humid day of cleaning the cages.

Maybe it wasn't too early to go hard. I ordered two more martinis; gin, dry, three olives, for my caddy and me.

What happened next even had Jerry's jaw dropping.

Tiger swaggered into the bar. By himself.

I've been told he used to knock a couple back now and again in his mid 20s, but I'd never personally seen him visit the 19th hole in my five years on tour. His reputation for being notoriously cheap preceded him wherever he went, and maybe he simply wanted to avoid venues, like a bar, where that inclination of his was most obvious.

He walked directly up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, "T-Four, my man, you were dealin' out there, I'm told."

I chuckled. Jerry was just staring at Tiger. "Thanks, man."

"Can I buy you guys a round?" asked probably the greatest golfer of all time.

I nodded, and Tiger took the stool to my left.

I wouldn't have been surprised if Tiger did not even remember who I was, let alone my nickname. It had been over a year since we played together, and we didn't make much of a connection that day, if memory serves me right. He was known for his standoffish personality, in general, especially with the media. But he could be downright surly during a round with his partners. He'd been civil but reserved with me.

Though I knew the answer, having memorized everybody who was under par, I asked him, "How'd you do?"

"Three under," he said, sipping a dark beer from a chilled pint glass. The bartender was building the two martinis for me and Jerry. We hadn't finished the ones in front of us yet.

"And three back," he continued without skipping a beat. "Right on your ass."

He grinned at me when he said it, but his eyes held little or no mirth. He meant it. He was workin' me like a fly fisherman getting a big mouth bass to shore.

"Get used to the view." It came out before I realized who I was talking to. He looked at me for a three count, and then burst out laughing.

He leaned forward and said to Jerry, "You guys have quite a fucking rep out there. A couple of cards, you two. I hear guys bitching in the locker room, but I love it. When I had Stevie, we'd sometimes pull that shit, too. It's a great relaxer."

Jerry grinned and nodded. He still hadn't said a word. I noticed Mickelson and McCord staring at us down the bar.

Not every day I buy Phil Mickelson a martini while Tiger buys me one.

"You eagled fifteen, huh?"

I nodded. "Pured a five wood to two feet. My best shot of the round."

"I heard. Would've liked to see it."

"Who told you?"

"Jethro." He took a big swallow of beer.

"Rope Belt Boy? You know him?"

"I know he played with the guy who's leading. I, ah, sought him out, if you will."

"Scouting report…good luck with that."

"T-Four, my good man," he said, slapping me on the back and peeling a $20 bill off a roll of cash the size of his fist. "Luck has nothing to do with it. Try not to miss the cut, OK." He left the bill on the bar, finished his beer in two gulps, got off his stool and walked away.

"You too," I said to his back as he laughed and headed out the door to the food serving area.

Asshole.

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The next day, Friday, I shot 67. Tiger shot 65. We were gonna be playing together on Saturday. I was still atop the leaderboard, one stroke ahead of Tiger. Jethro shot 80 and was last seen slamming his trunk in the player's parking lot, then forgetting he still had his spikes on, kicking his courtesy car and scratching the hell out of it.

Jerry said he and at least ten other guys saw it. Fucking hilarious.

One of the guys laughing the hardest was Tiger.

Asshole.

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Saturday With Tiger Woods

So, me and Tiger. Head to head. For probably the most coveted prize in golf. The Green Jacket. Sure. It's only Saturday. Moving Day as it's called out here on tour. When guys who are still within shouting distance hope to move up the leader board.

On the first tee, Tiger shook my hand and said good luck, with all the warmth of a shark approaching a fat, sleeping seal. I just nodded silently.

Jerry and I had talked the previous night about how to handle the whole Tiger aura. Having played with him before helped, of course. But never under these circumstances. Augusta was his personal playground. He's won here four times. He's very comfortable on this course. And when he's in the hunt for any major on the weekend, his record is pretty close to flawless.

Jerry was good friends with Tiger's new caddy, who'd replaced Stevie Williams. Brad Nesky was a tall, thin guy who seemed to slouch under the weight of Tiger's huge bag. But he knew the game of golf very well, and had been on the loop for five major championships. He knew what today was going to be like.

Tiger hit his driver on one and left it out to the right, where it nestled in the rough. I chose a three wood and hit a low stinger down the center, forty or fifty yards short of Tiger's ball, but in the fairway. That's probably the way it was going to go from the tee for the whole round. I wasn't going to try to bomb it out there with him.

Jerry and I had also discussed whether or not to engage in our banter. After going back and forth on it, we decided to keep it low key until the back nine. To see where things stood once we hit the tenth tee. So we walked silently down the first fairway.

I hit a five iron to within 15 feet, which was better than I could have hoped for. Tiger was in the rough left of the green after his second shot.

After he chipped to within four feet, he marked his ball and said pointedly to me as I was lining up my putt, "Tricky putt there, T-Four."

What the fuck?

Not only was that out of line, ethically, it was totally out of character, Tiger-wise. Was he threatened enough by little old me to feel he had to fuck with me? I didn't know whether to be flattered or pissed.

I chose to ignore him. And I chose to make the putt, and look right at him as I bent to retrieve my ball from the cup. His stare was impassive. I mouthed the word "Tricky" to him.

Game fucking ON!

I told Jerry what Tiger had said to me and he practically shit his drawers. He was in disbelief. Then he said, "Fuck the back nine. Let's get it going now."

I nodded.

Tiger made his putt and also shot me a look as he picked his ball out of the cup.

This was gonna be fun.

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Once Jerry and I started our little act, Tiger appeared to get rattled. With his new caddy, most of their interaction seemed forced, almost contrived.

On the tee at 6, I looped a soft fade into the right front tee location on the 180 yard par 3 that hit the stick and bounded, unfortunately for me, 20 feet past the hole.

As I passed Tiger walking off the tee, I said very softly, "You like apples?"

I heard him snort.

His 7 iron stopped on a dime four feet from the stick. As he pulled his tee out of the ground, he looked at me and said, rather loud, "Those Washington State apples are the BEST!"

Jerry and I laughed. What the fuck was I gonna do. It was funny.

Tiger made, I missed, and we were now tied for first.

It was his tee, and as he bent to put his tee in the ground at the short par 4, I couldn't resist. "OB on the right over there, Mr. Woods."

The crowd around the tee remained silent except for a couple of chuckles. Thy probably had never heard anybody mess with Tiger before.

Tiger studiously ignored me.

Jerry handed me my driver.

Tiger's drive went right. Not far enough, I'm afraid, to reach the out of bounds, but he was in trouble. As I strode onto the tee, I said to him, "You should be fine over there."

He stopped, looked at me, and then grinned. "Fuck you very much," he said quietly.





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