This probably won’t come as a shock to you, but your favorite columnist isn’t even one-tenth as good as Tiger Woods.
Any lingering doubt was erased last week, when I had 10 chances to re-create one of the most spectacular shots of Woods’ career, a swing that took place right here in Akron.
If you’re even a casual fan of golf, you’ve probably seen the replay a zillion times.
• Sunday, Aug. 27, 2000.
• South Course, Firestone Country Club, where the $8.5 million Bridgestone Invitational will tee off next week.
• Final round.
• Final hole, a dicey, 464-yard par 4 featuring a huge, ball-hungry tree guarding the left side of the green. If you don’t land your drive on the right side of the fairway, you’re toast.
Woods wasn’t overly worried about his score at the time, because he was cruising home with an enormous lead. He was more concerned about getting out of town. Stormy weather had led to a three-hour delay, and the sky was so dark that, under normal circumstances, play would have been suspended until Monday morning.
But Woods had a commitment the next day, as did his playing partner, Hal Sutton, so they decided to tough it out.
Because Sunday nights are the most lucrative time of the week for network television, and more viewers are interested in 60 Minutes than professional golf, CBS cut off its coverage at 7 p.m., transferring the remaining action to the Nashville Network (now Spike TV).
CBS’ star announcers, David Feherty and Jim Nance, were still in place, though, and viewers who made the switch were richly rewarded.
Woods rips his drive down the right side of the fairway and is in perfect position, with 168 yards left to the pin.
Allegedly. It’s so dark that nobody can see much of anything. A few fans near the green are jokingly holding up lighters to show the way.
Wearing his typical Sunday garb (red shirt, black slacks), Woods grabs his 8-iron from caddie Steve Williams and sets up.
As he strikes the ball and tries to watch its flight, Feherty says, “This one appears to be on line — I think.”
The instant the ball lands, Nance goes crazy.
“Oh, no!” he exclaims. “You can’t — you can’t do that! That can’t happen!”
The ball has stopped two feet from the cup.
Two feet. In the misty darkness. From a distance of more than one-and-a-half football fields.
Out on the course, Tiger looks right into the roving camera and grins. “How about that, huh!”
After he taps in his birdie, giving him an astounding 11-stroke victory, Nance says of Woods, “He’s left them in the dark again.”
Woods left everybody in the dark that season.
In a year-end column in the New York Times, veteran sportswriter Leonard Shapiro gushed over the shot and Woods’ season, which Shapiro identified as “the most dominating performance by a single player in all of golf history.
“But one moment clearly defined the depth of his singular skills.”
He cited four other remarkable shots, but kept coming back to the one at Firestone.
“A shot in the dark by arguably the greatest player of all time had to be seen to be believed. I was there. I saw it. And I still do not believe it.”
Well, if you can’t believe Woods did that with one swing, do you believe I can do that in 10 swings?
Me neither. But how could I pass up a chance to give it a try on legendary Firestone South, just a couple of weeks before the world’s best players arrive?
Don Padgett III, in his sixth year as executive director of the tournament, not only cleared the way but served as my caddie, ball boy and spiritual adviser.
This guy not only runs the show but has game. He once shot a 67 here from the championship tees. Which means he and I have absolutely nothing in common.
We met at the driving range, where I banged out a few shots before riding out to No. 18.
The plan was to launch my quest at 8:30, the same time Tiger made history. But I didn’t take into account the fact that in those days, the annual tournament (then sponsored by NEC) was played four weeks later, when the days are shorter.
So I had the benefit of more light — which seems fair, given the fact that Tiger’s Lasik-corrected eyeballs are several decades younger than mine.
Padgett knew the precise spot where the famous shot was hit. But neither of us had any idea where my shots were going.
First try: Using a 6-iron, I hit the green and rolled to the back edge, to the right of the pin. So on the next nine attempts, I geared back to a 7-iron.
Whether that was the right club is unclear, because I hit a few too long, a few too short, a few to the right and a few to the left.
I hit one WAY to the left, bringing to mind another famous Tiger shot — the 2006 hatchet job in which he bounced a 9-iron off a cart path and onto the clubhouse, where it rolled across the roof before falling into the parking lot behind it.
In contrast to the hordes who follow Woods, my gallery consisted of one. And he was there only because he’s my friend and was pressured into videotaping the action. (If you have the stomach for it, you can find his five-minute video at www.ohio.com/news/dyer.)
Although I butchered a couple of shots, I did put half of them on the green, which seems respectable for somebody who plays only once every couple of weeks. And a few shots weren’t bad at all.
My last try was the closest, landing just left of the green, precisely pin high, a mere 24 feet from the cup.
So, yeah, well, OK, Tiger beat me by 22 feet.
Big deal. Let’s see him try to write a column about my greatest shots.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.