Justin Leonard, who grew up in Dallas, opened with a 64 and for a time was tied for the first-round lead, yet no one wanted to talk about his game. "When you shoot six under and get asked about Tiger right away, that's a negative," he said. When Brian Henninger was brought into the press room last Thursday, he mockingly asked, "Doesn't anybody have a Tiger question?"
Faxon spoofed Woods's comments from the week before, telling reporters, "I didn't have my A game today. It was a C minus. But I'm flying in my coaches tomorrow."
Earlier Faxon had explained to Woods that Tiger had bruised some fragile egos when he said he had won the Nelson despite not playing his best. Some players found Woods's references to winning with his C game to be insulting. Woods says he was only being honest but, heeding Faxon's advice, also stopped grading his performances. "I'm not going to use any more letters," he announced.
Between the ropes the players fall into two camps: those who respect Woods's game and those who fear him. "A lot of guys like it when he takes four weeks off, to tell you the truth," Faxon says. "But the better players want him here. They want to beat him. They don't want an asterisk if they win."
Ogrin, who took a one-shot lead into the final round and was paired with Woods, reinforced Faxon's point. "There is no question in anybody's mind that Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world today," Ogrin said. "You've got to want to play Tiger the way you've got to want to face Michael Jordan or Greg Maddux."
Facing Tiger means dealing with a large, noisy gallery jockeying for viewing position. Woods had 10 straight rounds in the 60s after his first-round 70 at Augusta and from the Masters on has been 69 shots lower than the players he has been paired with. During that span none of his playing partners have beaten him. Ogrin, who tied Faxon for second, at least matched Woods's 72 on Sunday and offered a critique on Tiger's game. "If there's a potential weakness," he said, "it's how do you finesse a 190-yard eight-iron? His club head is hitting the ball so hard that he's going to find situations where it's difficult to keep the ball in the ballpark. He's a very quick learner and phenomenal around the greens, probably the best I've seen since Lee Trevino."
So Woods lost this one. It happens. He's 21, remember? His list of victories didn't grow at Colonial, but his impact did, in ways we don't even realize.
"Don't think that Tiger is the last one," Ogrin said. "There's a kid from my hometown, San Antonio, who's going to Baylor next year who hits it just like Tiger—just like him. He's Jimmy Walker, and there're 10 more like him. Tiger is just the first wave of guys who are going to play like this."
Yeah? Tell them to hurry. Tigermania waits for no one.