Woods himself allowed that "I'm playing pretty darn good." After Saturday's round he couldn't keep from smiling at the accuracy of his iron shots on the practice range. He was so relaxed and confident that evening that he tossed a football around with his friends in the parking lot of his hotel.
The next day, as Woods maneuvered his ball around Valencia with a controlled ease, he even impressed another famous L.A. golfer, O.J. Simpson. "It's amazing to be my age and have an athletic hero," says Simpson, "but I feel about Tiger the same thing I used to feel about Hugh McIlhenny and Gale Sayers. The way Tiger handles himself is an inspiration to me."
At Valencia, though, Woods was no more comfortable than Mayfair. After enduring two poor seasons—he finished 55th on the money list in '96 and 79th last year—and swing flaws that eroded what had been a positive attitude, Mayfair resolved that this season he was not going to get down on himself. He hadn't played particularly well before Valencia, but he felt mentally strong and more sure of his swing.
The Mayfairs' two rottweilers, Dallas and Tulsa, whom they take on Tour as often as possible, are among their sources of joy. With his victory on Sunday, Mayfair can afford to fly charter more often, which means no airline kennel cages for the pooches. Mayfair will also be able to give more financial assistance to his caddie, Montana Thompson. In two weeks Thompson's three-year-old son, Lucas, will undergo brain surgery to correct a life-threatening condition. May-fair said he would pay Thompson more than the customary 10% of the winner's purse, which at the Nissan was $378,000.
Wait a minute. Heartwarming stories about dogs and kids? Maybe the Nissan Open had a Hollywood ending after all.