Two weeks ago Ben Curtis decided to practice at Isleworth and wound up playing a round with Tiger Woods. While the 2003 British Open champion acknowledged he’s not close with Tiger, he admitted it was “a little bit different.” In other words, it was awkward. (Which is also the first word that comes to mind when watching Curtis talk about the encounter in Friday’s press conference at Bay Hill.)
“I could see where some of the guys that might have known him pretty well – like Mark O’Meara – it might be a little bit different for them now than it was before. But I don’t know. That’s hard to say. I try to just treat it as we are just going out there and playing golf and just having some fun.”
Curtis said Woods appeared to be nervous, perhaps because it might have been his first time playing with a PGA Tour colleague. They were joined by Steve Johnson, the swing coach for Curtis and a disciple of Hank Haney, and a friend of Woods that Curtis did not recognize.
Now who was this mysterious friend? Apparently Curtis didn’t get his name over the course of 18 holes of golf. He added neither kept score and they kept their chatter strictly golf-related. (No way!) But more important, how did Tiger play?
Curtis said with a smile, “He was a bit rusty.”
While he appears to have been joking, it’s different than the testaments from Tour luminaries Arjun Atwal and John Cook who both gushed over the state of Tiger’s game earlier in the week. Atwal and Cook played multiple rounds with Tiger at Isleworth last week and they prognosticate a win at The Masters for Tiger, who hasn’t competed since November. Well, I guess a week of practice could have made all the difference.
But keep in mind the words “nervous” and “rusty” before you place your bets on Tiger to win The Masters. Or maybe he just forgot to meditate that day.