Former NBA great Jerry West (left) walks with Tiger Woods during Wednesday's pro-am.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - For a two-hole stretch in the Greenbrier Classic's pro-am tournament Wednesday, fans saw one of the most immense assemblies of sports-star power in state history.It took only two people walking down the 13th and 14th fairways - Jerry West and Tiger Woods.The legendary basketball player nicknamed "The Logo" met golf's leading icon on the 12th hole. West Virginia born and raised, West came up in a golf cart, then walked from that green onward.The gallery surrounding Woods, swelling with every minute, was caught off-guard. "Is that Tiger Woods?" several disbelieving fans asked.
Disbelief was a theme as thousands witnessed Woods' first round in the state of West Virginia (thunderstorms allowed Woods just a single tee shot Tuesday). Fans were expressing that openly between shots, with statements such as, "I never thought I'd see the day when I'd see Tiger Woods playing in Greenbrier County, West Virginia!"Fans crowded against ropes to get near Woods as he walked - in that familiar deliberate style - from green to the next tee. Most wished him good luck, and he showed appreciation. Others said a simple "Thanks," as in "Thanks for coming."One fans yelled, "Happy Fourth of July, Tiger." Woods answered, "Thank you. Same to you."To nobody's surprise, Woods played with the resort's top brain trust - owner Jim Justice, his son Jay and Steve Klemish, broker in charge of the resort's real estate and Justice's right-hand man.Those three smiled their way around the course, hitting enough good shots to give the group a best-ball round of 58. Justice even hit a long putt on the par-5 12th to give the team an eagle.
Woods himself shot a 4-under 66, scoring birdies on the par-3 third, the par-4 fifth and seventh and both par-5 holes. He bogeyed the eighth, a difficult par 3.But those scores are indicative of nothing. Players were yukking it up with their generally high-profile partners, experimenting with certain shots and enjoying lenient hole placements.Most players would take extra putts and other shots while their partners were putting out. Woods was no exception, as he showed extra curiosity about Old White's greenside collection areas.Woods hit nine of 14 fairways, and was very close on the other five. He missed only four greens and took 29 putts, though he didn't hit a really long one. But on a few holes, he didn't need to - he stuck his approach on No. 5 to about 2 feet, and chipped within a foot on his third shot at the par-5 17th.By then, the general-public grandstands were nearly full and the standing gallery seemed to be nearly the size of a Thursday or Friday throng. Even though Woods teed off at 7 a.m., about 200 witnessed his first shot.Look for more than that today, when he goes off the 10th tee at 8:10 a.m. with Webb Simpson and Steve Stricker. On Friday, they go off at 1:20 p.m.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com
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