This was an upside-down week in golf, no doubt because the marquee event was played on the other side of the equator. At the New Zealand Open, Tiger Woods received an ovation for raking a bunker, while the man who lugs his bag, Steve Williams, gave a series of standing-room-only press conferences. If the extraordinary were celebrated for performing the ordinary in New Zealand, the inverse held true at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where hardscrabble veteran Jerry Kelly sweated out his first Tour victory in his 200th start. The New Zealand Open may have shared an ocean with the Sony, but it was clear that Woods and Kelly inhabit different worlds.
Woods's arrival in New Zealand, on a private jet, was carried live on national television, and he was shuttled around the countryside in a motorcade befitting a head of state. Kelly arrived in Oahu on a commercial puddle jumper "pretty much unannounced," he says. With rounds of 65-65-66 at Waialae Country Club, in Honolulu, Kelly took a two-stroke lead into Sunday, but even as he played in the final group on a prime-time telecast, a lone security guard escorted him. In New Zealand 400 officers were assigned to the Open, and Woods's gallery included cops carrying rifles stashed in duffel bags.
Woods had come to honor Williams, who grew up playing the tournament course, Paraparaumu Beach, outside Wellington. A noble gesture, but the trip turned out to be a disaster. The vibe was poisoned by a threatening letter sent to the U.S. embassy as well as outrage over inflated ticket prices necessitated by Woods's $2 million appearance fee. Bad weather and wavy greens further bedeviled Woods as he labored to tie for sixth.
Kelly has experienced frustrations of his own, even if they don't qualify as international news. Though he had steadily improved from 103 to 35 on the money list over the past five seasons, Sunday slip-ups had undermined his confidence. Not long after clinching victory with a 72nd-hole birdie, Kelly was celebrating outside the Waialae clubhouse. His win created little stir outside his hometown of Madison, Wis., but for a week, he was the brightest star in golf. "I've got the sunset in the background, two leis on me," he said, beaming. "I'm a happy guy!"
If only life were so simple for Woods.