6.28-7.1.12 – AT&T National
Alright here we go…
I didn’t get to make a ton of images I actually liked on the first day because I spent the majority of the day running around the course trying to keep up with the current leaders of the second and making sure that we had neck and steel shots of anyone who was in contention at the end of the day.
I spent much of Friday with Tiger’s group focusing on the tournament’s host who was hoping to pass his boyhood idol (and Ohio native!) Jack Nicklaus for second on the Tour’s all time wins list. Shooting golf is a lot easier when you can stick with just one of two groups for the day because it allows you more time to play around, be creative, and patiently wait for the little story telling moments.
And in case you may have not heard, like in much of the nation, it’s been really hot in D.C. the last couple of weeks, so finding ways to incorporate the weather into our coverage was important as well.
So, this is where things got crazy. Around 11:00pm Friday night a powerful storm front, or derecho for those who may be so meteorologically inclined, swept through much of the east coast causing widespread damage that some areas are still trying to recover from over a week later. There were serious concerns over whether or not play would have to be suspended on Saturday. But the grounds crew at Congressional did an amazing job of making the course playable, though there was still such a large amount of debris that the tournament was closed to the public for the third round. This caused for an eerie scene around the golf course, and I love weird stuff so this was by far my favorite day of shooting. While the course wasn’t entirely empty (some volunteers and Tiger Woods Foundation members were allowed to watch) most groups, including the lead group, were followed by absolutely no spectators. Tiger Woods’ group was followed by a small group of around 50 or so people, including media. Even in practice rounds Woods’ often draws galleries of hundreds or thousands of fans. This was likely the smallest following Tiger Woods will ever have follow him in public, let alone while playing golf. Needless to say documenting it was an amazing experience.
Tiger didn’t seemed to be phased by the lack of a rowdy group of supporters urging him on as he played his way into contention on moving day. A clear race between Woods and Bo Van Pelt began to emerge towards the end of Saturday’s round.
Get out your red shirts because its Sunday Tiger! In a version of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game that I often played as a kid there was once an unlockable character called Sunday Tiger who was basically superman with a 9 iron. While Tiger may not quite seem as invincible as he once did he was still playing for his 74th Tour title for a reason. The guy just knows how to close and has built a brand around being clutch on Sundays.
And as the final holes neared it came right down to a back nine battle between Woods and Van Pelt.
But was the ending ever really in doubt? Tiger pulled ahead with a birdie on 15 and while Van Pelt made it interesting down to the last hole there was never really any doubt about who would end up on top after the final putt on 18. There’s just not a video game character called Sunday Bo.
Growing up as a golf crazy kid at the height of Tigermania I was raised on stories about how Woods had idolized Nicklaus while he was growing up and had made his ultimate goal surpassing the Golden Bear’s 18 major victories. And while it may not have been as big a moment as a 19th major, Woods’ 74th Tour win still marks a significant moment in the sports history and in the legends of Tiger and Jack. So, it was kind of a bizarre feeling to be there to witness the moment where Tiger passed Jack and being more concerned about what direction Tiger would turn after he made his final putt or if Van Pelt’s caddy was going to walk into my frame and ruin my clean background (he tried his best to make it in my picture!). But I still loved every second of working the tournament and even with the long days, tons of hauling heavy gear over a hilly course, and all that during a miserable heat wave I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Hopefully this isn’t the last time I get to photograph Tiger wearing red, sinking a putt on 18, or passing a Nicklaus benchmark.