PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Wednesday afternoon at TPC Sawgrass featured a bit of a lull, which is to be expected as it feels like it's time to get this tournament rolling already. Fortunately, this caused me to go meander to the first tee at TPC Sawgrass to see what was going on out on the course, and it just so happened a certain 14-time major champion was out to sneak in an afternoon nine holes.
His playing partners? Fellow Bridgestone commercials star Bryson DeChambeau and Harold Varner III. What followed was a fun, low-key yuck fest between the three that myself and a hundreds of fans were lucky enough to observe. Here's some of the best things I heard and saw from the Tiger-Bryson-HV3 practice round.
Tiger makes a fan’s life
On his way to the second tee, a young woman in her mid to late 20s screamed “Tiger, I came all the way from Australia to see you!” Woods rewarded her with a golf ball, and the woman screamed “OH MY GOD” and nearly fainted into the nearest bush. Bryson DeChambeau, who was lagging behind, said “what the hell just happened?” This was only the first hole of the day.
A lively NFL conversation
Not sure who prompted the football talk, but it eventually led to Bryson asking Tiger “how are the Raiders?” As the conversation shifted to their signing of Antonio Brown, Woods sarcastically stated that “he sounds like a great team guy."
Harold Varner III chimed in about his beloved Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. “Killa Cam is going to be healthy next year, gonna wreck the league.” As a fan of the 2015 NFL MVP, and a fan of the dumpster fire of a franchise in the New York Giants, I’m on board. Go Panthers.
nut job Mad Scientist
I mean this in the nicest way possible: the guy is insane. He’s got more contraptions and gadgets and guys with backpacks than anybody out here. And he’s insistent on knowing the spin rate after every shot. Not just shots he doesn’t like, not shots he loves, EVERY shot. It makes for some lively back and forth, like the conversation in the sixth fairway, where he came up 10 yards short but “had 96 spin rate, how is that possible?” Then hit the next one on the green with a similar spin rate and said “it had to be the wind before.” Whatever you say, bud.
Bryson, the fun police
First, he jokingly asked “Mr. Varner, could you please tuck your shirt in?” when HV3’s shirt was askew, which he explained was because it was too small. Then, at the par-4 sixth, where perhaps the largest and, um, most vocal crowd of the day was gathered, a few fans screamed “MASHED POTATOES” and “YABBA DABBA DO” after Tiger striped a 3-wood. DeChambeau’s response? “Guys, it’s a freaking practice round.” On one hand, he should expect this by now, as he’s played quite a few practice rounds and competitive rounds with Big Cat. On the other hand … preach Bryson, preach.
Fan offers Tiger a drink
On the walk to the seventh tee, another one of those vocal fans that was also probably one of the yabba dabba do guys said, “Tiger I got some whiskey right here for ya,” while filming on what I presume to be his Snapchat or Instagram story for all his bros to see. Tiger said “thanks, bud,” declined the drink, kept walking and piped a driver.
Tiger throwing daggers
After Bryson’s approach came up well short at the 6th, he dropped another ball to hit, but first Tiger and Varner III hit their shots up ahead. Woods and caddie Joe LaCava then stood directly in front of Bryson, about 20 yards ahead, and said “If you hit us, we got a problem.” Got him!
Tiger’s actual play
It’s impossible to truly follow what’s going on in these practice rounds anymore, as there are 50 balls flying around and even more people on the green blocking your view. But from what I could see, Woods looked sharp, playing a high cut with his 3-wood off almost every tee but the seventh. On the seventh he smashed a driver down the middle and went for the immediate tee grab. He did make birdies on his first ball on the third and fifth holes, whatever that’s worth. Those Matt Killen putting tips seem to be working wonders.