Don’t look for Tiger Woods’ return to Colonial

Posted Sunday, May. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton I have a confession to make. It was me.

Me and about 5,000 whooping, jeering Aggies.

It was us. On May 25, 1997, we chased Tiger Woods away from the Colonial golf tournament, and he’s never returned.

It had been a unique and feisty week, as I recall. Young Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, riding the crest of victories at the Masters and the Nelson, was gracing the Colonial field for the first time.

Tiger was 21 years old. The tournament we call Colonial had been around for 51 years. Surely, I assumed, Woods would be moved by the event’s rich tradition, its link with the great Ben Hogan and its Wall of Champions.

That, however, was my first mistake. Tiger doesn’t do tradition. He makes his own, I quickly learned.

One of them was announcing his own acceptance of Colonial’s invitation. He provides the choir and trumpets, not the tournament organizers.

Another wincing moment that week came when Woods sat down with the media for a pre-tournament press conference. It had just been announced that Monday that Tiger had signed a five-year, multi-million-dollar endorsement deal with American Express. But behind Tiger in photos of the press conference, regrettably, was the prominent logo of Colonial’s then-corporate sponsor, MasterCard.

Oops.

Fast-forward to Saturday and the conclusion of the 1997 tournament’s third round. Texas A&M product David Ogrin was feeling his oats after a round in which he had birdied six holes in a row.

Ogrin reminded everyone that in the previous year’s Texas Open, he had finished first and Woods third.

“I’m a member of the Tiger Killing Club,” Ogrin said. “There are only a few members — me, Tommy Lehman and Mark O’Meara.”

Near the end of the interview, Ogrin saw that Woods had walked into the room.

“No ‘three-peat’ for that man,” Ogrin announced, pointing at Tiger.

Woods, it was noted, fought back a giggle. But Ogrin may as well have sung the Aggie War Hymn. In their final round pairing the next day, hundreds and hundreds of A&M supporters chose to follow — at times boisterously — Ogrin’s every step.

It didn’t seem to faze Woods until he plunked a shot into the water on No. 9. He had to play catch-up the rest of the day, and made his second double-bogey of the day on the 17th.

The Aggies in attendance loved it. You would have thought the Longhorns had fumbled — twice — inside the 10-yard line.

David Frost won the tournament. Ogrin tied for second. Tiger finished fourth.

Cornered by a Colonial representative, Woods issued a couple of perfunctory remarks — “I didn’t play well all day. ... It was just some mechanical problems.” But I didn’t know that as I tried to follow Tiger into the players’ locker room, as the media is allowed by PGA rules.

Two Fort Worth policemen stopped me and said, more or less, that under Tiger Woods rules, I wasn’t.

In the final memory I have of the incident, I was in the horseshoe driveway in front of the Colonial clubhouse, as Tiger’s Cadillac was speeding away.

“You owe us!” I remember shouting, waving a demanding fist in the air.

He hasn’t been back since, of course.

It’s probably me. Or the jeering Aggies. Or the two double bogeys on the last day.

Or whatever.

Let it be recorded, however, that Colonial, Fort Worth’s tournament, has carried on, despite the absence of Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.

As tournament director Michael Tothe said Sunday, “You always want the opportunity to host the best in the world. We would welcome him if he was to ever play again in Fort Worth.

“But we focus on the 127 guys that do commit to us. I think you look at the long list of champions we have, and we’re very proud of those champions.”

When you have a good time this week, therefore, credit Hogan, credit the tradition, credit Colonial.

Blame me if you don’t see You Know Who.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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