Neck hairs jumped to attention. Birds bolted telephone lines. Ears ached and pulses raced and perfect strangers embraced. Near the clubhouse Nick Price heard it and said to somebody, "Had to be an ace. Had to be Tiger." Amazing how much noise one little dimpled golf ball can set off when just the right legend plunks it into just the right hole.
It happened at the 16th at the Phoenix Open last Saturday, which is not a hole but a giant mosh pit of a par-3. An estimated 20,000 people, many of them sober, were there when Tiger Woods putted out on the 15th and made his way into Golf-apalooza. As usual, fans lined the path to the tee screaming and yelling as though Woods were about to play Iraq on the hole, no strokes given. But for the kid who is merely hijacking the game, it was suddenly Woods-stock. "That hole is un-traditional," Woods said later. "That's the reason I like it. You don't have people out there with handcuffs and mittens on."
Handcuffs didn't seem like such a bad idea. In fact, before he left the 15th green, Woods told his caddie, "Maybe I should run up through there like it's a tunnel at a football game and explode onto the tee box and high-five everybody." What he did instead was better. He cut a nine-iron shot that took two lovely little hops before cuddling down in the cool shade of the hole.
The roar was what you might get if a sonic boom went off in your garage. The crowd suddenly turned into Red Cashion, each fan signaling touchdown. Beer cans, baseball caps and paper cups rained on the tee, sacrifices to a 21-year-old god. And the roar kept rolling. "They wouldn't stop," Woods said. It didn't end until he took the little Titleist from its hole and flung it deep into the throng, a souvenir of the ninth ace of his life, his second in 10 tournaments as a pro. Art Wall is the king of aces among Tour pros with 45, but if Mozart here keeps this up—allowing for, say, 20 tournaments a year until he's 60—he'll have 156. How's he supposed to frame that many balls?
And so it goes with Tiger Woods, who is not only stealing golf's heart and gold, but all of its scenes, too.