Woods takes test drive at Hazeltine

Tiger prepares for next week's PGAChampionship

Wire reports

CHASKA, Minn. -- Tiger Woods tried to play a practice round in relative quiet Tuesday at Hazeltine National Golf Club. But the secret got out and a small crowd trailed Woods for much of the back nine.

Woods and pal Mark O'Meara flew in from Grand Blanc, Mich., in the morning, played the course in about 21⁄2; hours and immediately returned to Grand Blanc, where both will play in this week's Buick Open. It was Woods' first visit to Hazeltine and an opportunity to get familiar with the layout of the course.

Jim Arnold, a retired teacher who works in the pro shop at Hazeltine, served as Woods' caddy. "My heart was racing as fast as could be," he said.


Woods did not talk to the media afterward, going from the 18th green to his vehicle in the parking lot.

In his absence, the excited Arnold spoke of the day.

"I just caddied for the best player in the world. I'll never forget this. It was an experience of a lifetime," said Arnold, 56, a retired teacher from Plymouth who coaches the freshman basketball team at Gustavus Adolphus College. "He was a perfect gentleman and very easy to be around. He's the same age (26) as my kids."

Woods' visit was supposed to be secret. He usually tries to play a practice round before a major in secrecy to avoid a crush of fans and the media. For the most part Tuesday, he succeeded, as no more than about 25 people at any time looked on, all kept back at a distance by security personnel.

"Until we were in the middle of the third fairway, there was just the four of us," Arnold said, speaking of the players and two caddies. "Not many people showed up until we made the turn."

"It was real hush-hush," club President Mark Josefson added.

Woods and O'Meara teed off after 11 a.m. and were finished before 2 p.m.

"They had to get out this morning to avoid the crowd, because after noon was the last time our members could play before we shut the course down (to prepare for the PGA)," Hazeltine pro Mike Schultz said.


Arnold added that Woods "didn't dislike any holes," and in particular, he liked hole Nos. 3, 6, 7, 10, 15 and 16.

"He really liked the course and only said the greens need to get firmer, which they will."

On several holes, Woods and O'Meara teed off from behind the back tee box so they would get a better feel of playing everything Hazeltine had to offer. The course will play at 7,360 yards for the PGA, but Arnold estimated Woods and O'Meara played from 7,500 yards.

Most of Woods' focus, Arnold said, was on the greens.

"He was very attentive on the greens and took a lot of putts," Arnold said.

And, Arnold said, Woods hit every club in his bag "at least once, which is the sign of a good golf course."

Woods used a new set of Titleist irons along with his old Titleist wedges, Titleist 3-wood and Nike 9.5-degree driver, which he hit on nine holes.

More than Woods' prodigious length, Arnold was most impressed with his shot-making ability.


"Some people say he's a machine. From what I saw, I think he's more of an artist."

This week in professional golf, Page 2D

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