Would you believe...that Woods was barely a factor? He made headlines, of course. As Woods walked off the 18th green last Wednesday, he stepped on the ankle of an autograph seeker who had crowded too close. Woods said he hyperextended his left knee and speculated that he might not be able to go the next day. He played, and shot a six-under 66 at Spyglass Hill, the toughest track in the three-course rota. The overeager fan, believed to be a professional memorabilia collector, was spotted in Woods's gallery and confronted by Monterey County deputies, who told him to keep his distance from the players.
Woods struggled to a 73 the next day at Poppy Hills and said after the slow, five-hour round, "This is like Groundhog Day—it never ends," and he was right. Last Friday was Groundhog Day. Despite his struggles, Woods, who hasn't won in his last six starts, retained his sense of humor. After spraying his ball from one side of the fairway to the other on the 12th hole, he walked to the 13th tee, held out his hand and said to playing partner Mark O'Meara, "Hi, I'm Tiger Woods. I'm in your group today."
Woods, who won the AT&T and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last year, didn't go away empty-handed, however. He and former Stanford teammate Jerry Chang tied for first with Mickelson and saxophonist Kenny G in the team competition at 34 under. Chang, a three handicapper, helped his partner by 26 shots.
Would you believe...that there's a debate about global warming? In recent years the rain-battered AT&T has finished on a Monday (2000), ended in August ('98) and been washed out ('96). Last week's tournament could have been called only on account of brightness. Sunday's temperature of 81 did to Monterey's record high for the date (74, set in 1954) what Woods did to the U.S. Open scoring record last June. "We're in a dry period," said tournament host Clint Eastwood. "I hope it rains like hell next week."
Would you believe...that Cinderella drove a beer truck? Mark Johnson, 46, won a playoff in the Monday qualifier to claim the last spot in the field, and then electrified family and friends back home in Barstow, Calif., by opening with a 65 at Poppy Hills, which put him a shot off the lead. Barstow, a pit stop of 21,500 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, is best known as the hometown of Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? diva Darva Conger. For a day, anyway, Johnson was a bigger celebrity.
To support his golf, Johnson, the '96 California Amateur champ, hauled beer, driving up to 300 miles and delivering as many as 1,000 cases a day to dusty desert towns. In his spare time he won a record 12 Southern California Golf Association titles. When golf interfered with work, Johnson's buddies at H. Olson Distributing covered for him. Two years ago a small group of Barstow businessmen put up enough money for Johnson to gear up for a shot at the Senior tour. Since then he has played mainly on the Canadian tour and last year was low man during the second stage of the PGA Tour's Q school in Beaumont, Calif. He bombed in the finals, though, and will head east this spring to try to qualify for Buy.com events.
Johnson hung on gamely at Pebble. He was tied with Woods in 20th place after two rounds and was only two shots out of fifth when he made the turn on Saturday. But he faded, playing the final 27 holes in five over and finishing 43rd. He wrapped up the week in style, however, holing a 30-footer for birdie on the last hole, and the $13,600 he won was the biggest check of his career. "I didn't finish the way I wanted, but I proved I can play with these guys," Johnson said. "It was a great week."
The fans took to him, too. Some noticed the Budweiser logo on his bag ( Johnson picked it out of an Anheuser-Busch company catalog and had a friend paint his name on it, just like the Tour pros) and started calling out to him, "Hey, beer man!"
"I think my name has officially changed now," Johnson said. "I'll take it."
Hey, Beer Man! Would you believe....