WOOTEN COLUMN: Play it one shot at a time
BY FRANK WOOTEN
Tiger steps onto the 17th tee of the island’s scenic, marsh-graced course.
He warily surveys the perilous water hazard ahead.
He struggles to accurately judge the direction and power of the erratic wind.
He knows the high stakes of his next shot: If the ball ends up on dry land, the day’s glory is virtually assured. If it ends up in the drink, a so-far triumphant round will be ruined.
No, not Tiger Woods.
And not Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
James Island’s City of Charleston Municipal Golf Course.
OK, so despite having the same first name, those are two very different golfers — and despite the island/marsh settings, those are two very different courses.
Hey, it’s still the same game.
On the rare occasions when Tiger Wooten has gotten his tee shot over the water on No. 17 at “Muni,” sheer shock has boosted his thrill far above the familiar satisfaction that Tiger Woods will feel today if his tee shots on No. 17 at the Ocean Course reach easy-birdie range.
Of course, Tiger Wooten hasn’t competed for a PGA Championship, as 14-time “major” champion Tiger Woods will again today on that Ocean Course.
But Tiger Wooten has broken 50 over nine holes (twice, both times at 49) — and once completed an entire 18-hole round in a mere 107 strokes.
And even extraordinarily inept golfers like Tiger Wooten enjoy watching the planet’s best do their best — and worst.
Those lowly hackers also wonder how they would fare on a terribly tough test like the Ocean Course. Tiger Wooten, for instance, suspects that his low-ball-flight game could be an advantage against those menacing gusts.
The TNT and CBS telecasts of the PGA Championship from the Ocean Course have moved many golfers across the vast driving range of skills to try the game anew. That’s because this special sport transcends:
»Age: Vijay Singh, at age 49, is tied for the PGA lead going into today’s play. Tom Watson, seven weeks shy of his 60th birthday, finished tied for first after all four rounds of the 2009 British Open before losing a playoff.
»Size: Wee (5-foot-4) Welshman Ian Woosnam won the 1991 Masters.
»Shape: Even some successful pros are fat. Tim Herron, a portly sort who has won four times on the PGA Tour, is also known as “Lumpy.”
»Gender: Lots of women golfers can beat lots of men.
In other words, if you can swing a club, you can play golf.
And you should play golf.
This thoroughly inclusive yet wholly humbling game teaches valuable life lessons that apply far beyond the links, including:
» Keep an honest score so you’ll know how good — and bad — you really are.
» Create your own positive, re-setting “swing thought” to block out self-fulfilling negative notions. (For Tiger Wooten, aka “Fairway Frank,” it’s “Hey diddle diddle, right down the middle.”)
» Remember that your most important shot is your next one.
CBS host Jim Nantz, likely without trying, drove home that maxim Saturday. He recalled that as Ocean Course designer Pete Dye directed its construction in 1989, “Hurricane Hugo came through here — gave them actually more opportunities to do something with this marshland.”
Gee, if you can look on the bright side of Hugo for the Ocean Course, you can look on the bright side of a tough “recovery shot” on the Charleston Municipal Course — or the bright sides of most other mortal predicaments.
You also can look for intriguing sporting suspense from the Ocean Course today. As Nantz pointed out after lightning forced the suspension of play Saturday, recent PGAs have produced some “remarkable battles.”
Along the up-for-grabs, final-major way, though, the Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, Charleston and South Carolina have already been major winners to a global TV audience.
Our natural beauty and gracious hospitality will return to admirable display today for the PGA drama’s last (let’s hope) act.
Meanwhile, though we must wait at least until this evening to see who will win our PGA Championship, this column now reports breaking golf news ...
Tiger Wooten, inspired by the Ocean Course’s fascinating PGA spectacle, has decided to come out of his 16-month golf retirement soon with a round at Muni.
So sure, it will be exciting to see if Tiger Woods can rally on the Ocean Course to get his 15th major title.
But it will be downright gripping to see if Tiger Wooten can get his next tee shot at Muni’s 17th hole over the water.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.