The leader in the clubhouse says, "I've got to go hit some balls." Two hours and 200 Titleists later he's still on the range, still ironing out flaws that kept his 66 from being an 18-under-par 54.
"There is no reason a man can't birdie all 18 holes," said Ben Hogan, who made the range a postround institution more than 50 years ago. "They laughed at me for practicing," said Hogan, who stopped the laughter with five wins in 1945 and 13 more in '46. Hitting the range is now a ritual, with range-roving fans and little pyramids of factory-fresh balls awaiting the players' arrival.
Nick Faldo, Tom Kite, Nick Price and Tom Watson pound range balls with Hogan-like zeal, but Billy Andrade and Jeff Sluman work their lips as much as their sticks. That's how they got their nickname, the Chipmunks. Behind them you might see Peter Jacobsen schmoozing, but even he stops to watch when Tiger Woods begins airmailing the far end of the range. Other players know Woods has arrived "by the sound," says Mark Calcavecchia. "He hits it with a different sound than the rest of us." Woods may be the most dedicated postround driller under 30, but he's only the prince of the practice range. The king is Singh. Every day on the range is Vijay day—a chance for the five-time Tour winner from Fiji to hit another million or so balls. Asked what he's working on today, Singh lifts his club to a precise point in his backswing, moves it a fraction of an inch and says, "This, right here." He'll be working on that, right there, until everyone else is long gone.
David Duval isn't one to dig a trench with his eight-iron after a round. "It's hard to work on mechanics in this atmosphere," he says, gesturing at the hubbub around him. Duval, who does most of his practicing at home in Jacksonville, cites a like-minded role model. " Jack Nicklaus made sure he was ready before he came out here," he says. Others, however, can't help worrying that if they don't hit an extra hundred balls today, somebody who does will beat them tomorrow. "A lot of guys hit balls out of guilt," says Rocco Mediate. Like Mediate, David Graham believes that guilt drives Tour pros to drive countless balls that don't count. Unlike Mediate, he is in favor of it. "Guilt is great," Graham says, "if it works. Look what it did for Norman and Price."