AUGUSTA, Ga. – Joaquín Niemann could not hear his class.
He also did another Masters competition. They had been wandering in a forest of spectators. Now, as the 23-year-old Chilean stood up for the first show of Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, Gary Matthews, who carried the Niemann bag, could be anywhere else.
This is life playing alongside Tiger Woods.
It was just a few weeks ago that Woods, whose doctors had amputated his leg after a car accident last year, appeared to be missing Masters. But his idea of playing in the tournament, his first competition since November 2020, immediately changed the way spectators would follow the action – and every player who accompanied the five-time Masters winner at Augusta National.
Woods’ presence on the team or team has long been a description of the venue playing around its competitive edge, and its fans, and often just curious, providing fun, commentary, cameras, twists and turns. The light, it seems, just tends away from him, if it will.
So the chaos, or anything that might happen on a golf course, would make Fred Couples – the Masters’ world champion golfer and golfer – look more like a thinker than a leading man. It could make Stewart Cink, the British Open champion and one of the best golfers of his time, just a fun bonus, or Francesco Molinari, the winner of the British Open, unparalleled in the name of the marquee.
“It’s very different when you play with Tiger everywhere, and Augusta National is no different,” said Cink, who often watches Woods at Masters.
Woods, who received his Masters green jackets 25 years ago, ruled for a long time at one of Augusta’s biggest shows, with some experts confirming that “Tiger roars” on pins just sounds different and fun for other players. And with Phil Mickelson, one of Woods’ contenders for fun and excitement, no more than this year’s Masters, Woods is the player with the most fans around Augusta this week.
The thrill of this tough week started long before Niemann, Woods and Louis Oosthuizen were found looking down at 445-yard No. 1 Thursday. The Couples, who played in their 37th Masters this week, joined Woods in a test match and were released on Monday, the first day the course was opened for viewers.
“I have never seen anything like it,” he exclaimed. The couple said they found their way to the original location where Woods fans “were only four feet deep.”
He added, “They wanted to see the big man, and they saw him, and they saw a good golf course. He always got that.”
But frequency does not make the experience easier for others who are pursuing their own interests.
“The biggest thing is the power in the community and the amount of work that goes on and the rush of responsibility,” said Cink, who finished well in Augusta for the third tie in 2008. “There’s a lot going on there.”
Cink said Woods had repeatedly tried to make the fight a success by allowing others to finish playing the hole before, keeping the crowd in place for a short period of time.
“When you play with him, it gets busy, it gets noisy,” said Molinari, who won the 2018 British Open at Carnoustie when he joined Woods and, next year, played with Woods on Sunday in Augusta. “I don’t think it would make a big difference if it’s here or somewhere.”
Woods, as powerful as he is, has so much power.
On Thursday, spectators began gathering in the first tee box just before Woods left the clubhouse to kick off his competition. The drone plane flew overhead. One man shouted, “Let’s Tiger!” at least twice, though it was hard to tell in the crowd that seemed to be 25 feet deep instead of people seeing Woods (or perhaps on top of his hat) when he first fired.
Niemann and Oosthuizen received a polite, welcoming reception from the crowd, which soon began to unravel when Woods, who first hit, had finished shaking his driver, it was best to start in front of the road or a second green, to see. Woods again.
The noise was silenced by holes in the back where Niemann said that, in the end, he could hear Matthews as he played his way to the 69th division. He added that he had returned to enjoy the crowds.
“They always tell me to make sure you finish before Tiger arrives, so people don’t start walking,” Niemann said. “But he was really polite, so it was a fun round.”
Daniel Berger also said that a worse disaster than the inclusion of Woods is playing ahead of him.
“If you have one or two ahead of you, then it is always difficult for people to rush to see him,” said Berger, who participated in the Masters in 2016.
Padraig Harrington, another British Open winner who played for the Woods, tried the same.
He says: “It is much harder when you are the team that is ahead of you. “It’s very difficult because people are watching him and going out to see him. When you play with him 20 deep, you don’t feel anything because there is so much going on.
But Harrington, who won two Opens and a PGA Championship, had no complaints about life with Woods as he plays friend.
He states: “He is one of the easiest people to play with all these years. “He’s a playful person. He plays golf. He says ‘shoot well’ only when you hit well. No distractions, no trash on it. “
Experimental activities are less stressful, and Maanja, who has lived near Woods and is now at the end of his career, has shown that he sometimes plays court. It looked like this week when Woods played with the Families, who won in Augusta in 1992, and Justin Thomas, who was born the following year and was 3 years old when Woods won the Masters for the first time.
“I like to tell them stories, but most of the time in the game they are quiet and I let them do what they want, and as soon as we get out of the way there will be a story of this man or the boy or me or Matigari,” Maanja, who said Woods and Thomas made his final hit “Then we laugh until we get to the ball.”
The crowd is always thick, and always looking, and always up. But Couples said there was an advantage to playing with Woods and Thomas, both theaters and the distractions aside.
“It’s good because they just want to play nine holes,” said two, 62. “I’m fine with nine holes.”