Fans not neutral when it comes to Tiger Woods
KIAWAH ISLAND — Tiger Woods. People either love him or hate him.
By the numbers
1,500 Volunteers per shift.
815 Credentialed media on site.
135 Shuttle buses operating.
12 Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies participating in security and traffic control.
On the hate side, he’s the Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys or Duke basketball, but with a 4-iron.
On the love side, he’s the greatest golfer who ever lived.
Among those who don’t like him, they really don’t like him.
“Infidelity,” said golf fan George McCutcheon III of Columbia, while his wife, Shannon, shouted nearby, “He’s a poor role model for children.” They had their kids in tow.
“I love to watch him play. He’s an awfully great golfer,” said Craig Bauer of Charleston. “But I don’t particularly respect his personality.”
Golf’s greatest draw on Sundays is proving to be the PGA’s greatest draw during practice and the lead up to Thursday’s opening round. Crowds were six deep Tuesday as Woods slammed balls on the practice range after his morning round.
Woods has always drawn scorn as well as admiration. More than a decade and a sordid scandal after he launched his pro career, people are more divided than ever. But no other golfer practicing on the Ocean Course at dawn Tuesday had people hunting him down.
Gary Bowers was at the gate when it opened at 7 a.m. He didn’t hesitate, walking with a determined lean, cradling his Canon EOS camera. He had to go back and forth between the front and back nine before he knew which way to head.
By the time he rounded the first hole he was sweating. But on the third hole he found who he was hunting for.
Woods teed off before the marshals were posted at the ropes, before the early crowd was let through the gate. Bowers, of Seabrook Island, woke up at 5 a.m. to catch Woods. He was one of the first to reach the third tee.
He wouldn’t be for long. Bryan Moten and Anthony Campbell, of Goose Creek, woke at 4:30 a.m. By the time Woods reached the third green, more than 30 people watched.
One man walked past on his way to another hole muttering that it was the only time he would give to watching Woods. Others jeered when Woods and the others in the threesome scrambled to the players’ vans as rain drops fell.
By the time Woods reached the ninth hole, he was swarmed by a Sunday championship-size crowd.
Bowers, a native of Ware, England, would be looking for “other Brits” later. But he had gotten up for Woods.
“I guess it’s just his game,” Bowers said. “I think out of all the players, he makes the most incredible shots out of tough situations. Come the moment, he makes the shot. I don’t think there’s anyone else so focused or intent. That’s fascinating in itself.”
Still, there’s just not much in between when it comes to how fans feel about the sport’s marquee player.
Columbia’s McCutcheon said his dislike for Woods is so great that he and his family opted against taking a picture of a giant Woods photo blow-up. Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, who show more of their faith, are more to their liking.
Others said they wanted to separate Woods into two people for their children to follow.
“I look at him more as the golfer than as the person,” said Jeff Hall of Rock Hill.
“I teach them about his professional side of life, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.