Tiger Woods, who enjoys trash talk almost as much as his status as the world’s top golfer, was on the receiving end of some pinpoint needling from Peyton Manning a while back.
Manning, an avid golfer and one of Tiger’s BFFs, was strolling the fairways at Bay Hill during this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and shared with Golf Channel the ribbing he gave Woods last March. That was a year removed from QB18 leaving Indianapolis for Denver and at a time when Eldrick was still working his way back from 58th place to No. 1 in the rankings.
Turns out, before Manning was all "Omaha" as a Bronco, the most prolific pigskin flinger of all time would call out "1" or "2" under center -- for Woods, who was then at the top of the pile, and bridesmaid Phil Mickelson, respectively.
"In our Colts offense, in the no-huddle, with our snap count, to go on ‘1’ we’d say Tiger and to go on ‘2’ we’d say Phil," Manning told Charlie Rymer in an interview that will air in its entirety on "Morning Drive" on Saturday. "Those were our code words -- Tiger meant ‘1,’ No. 1-ranked player in the world, and Phil meant ‘2.’
"I’m not sure which one Tiger liked the most -- whether he was ‘1’ or [long-time rival] Phil was ‘2,’" Manning conceded, "but either way, he certainly liked it."
Time passes, and during a golf date between the two superstars 12 months ago, a year after Manning had traded in one set of horseshoes for another, Woods wondered about the biggest difference between the two teams’ offenses -- leaving himself open for a patented Peyton Manning bazinga.
"I said, ‘Tiger, really, it’s pretty similar; the hardest thing for me right now is that [Rory] McIlroy is on 1 and Tiger is on 2,’" Manning deadpanned, recalling the body blow he had landed, stunning the 14-time major champion, who at the time looked up at the Boy Wonder in the standings.
"It hit him in the gut, hard," Manning noted, observing that Woods "likes to give it out more than anybody" and the razzing got him where he lived.
"He looked me in the eye," Manning added, "and he said, ‘I’m gonna get that fixed.’"
For sure, Woods carried out his vow, reclaiming his top seed a year ago almost to the day after winning for the eighth time at Bay Hill, and he has reigned supreme since, though Manning may soon need to learn another name to go with 1 in his pre-snap routine. Tiger, a no-show for his would-have-been title defense at Arnie’s Place, is home nursing a bad back while Adam Scott poised to knock the winner of 79 tour events from his throne with a first-place finish at one of Woods’ favorite playgrounds.
Tiger may have a bunch of Ws on the friendly Orlando confines, but a victory on Sunday by Scott -- at 11-under and with a four-shot lead over his nearest challengers midway through Friday’s second round, and barring an unlikely pre-Masters start from Woods -- would have him cruising into Augusta not only as defending champion but as No. 1 in Manning’s playbook.