Mark O'Meara's induction speech at the World Golf Hall of Fame ceremony Monday night touched the right notes ("a heartfelt speech," Geoff Shackelford called it), but oddly, there was no reference made to Tiger Woods' impact on his career.
When Woods turned pro in 1996, he became O'Meara's neighbor at Isleworth outside Orlando, and the two frequently practiced and played together for the next several years, a benefit to both. Woods had a mentor in O'Meara, who received from Tiger the spark that rekindled his motivation.
Woods, O'Meara in a practice round prior to 2000 British Open at St. Andrews (Getty Images)
In 1998, O'Meara won the Masters and the British Open, the only two major championships on his resume and the last two victories of his PGA Tour career, the two that thrust him into Hall of Fame consideration.
O'Meara might have won those majors anyway, but he said then that Tiger "rejuvenated my game." On several occasions, he noted the impact Woods had on his game. Two examples:
— "I think it has helped me in the standpoint, here I am playing with this young very talented 22-year-old individual who has actually kind of rekindled my spirit or my drive because I am a competitive person, like any other player out here, and I always want to play against the best…And I think that that in itself has helped drive me a little bit."
— "His competitiveness and his fire to want to win and win badly I think has helped spur me on a little bit in the last year-and-a-half. We enjoy competing against one another. We enjoy competing together. And I think that he's definitely helped me out and I think that I've helped him out, too, so it's worked out nice for both of us."
After O'Meara won the British Open, Christopher Clarey in the New York Times noted the mentorship. "But as O'Meara thrust both arms triumphantly skyward on the 18th green at the British Open on Sunday evening, it was suddenly difficult to decide which friend had benefited the most from the connection. Until this year's Masters, O'Meara had played in 56 major championships without managing to win."
Woods, incidentally, was not in attendance for the ceremony at St. Andrews University.