Tiger Woods won’t be walking onto the first tee at Pinehurst this week and neither will the buzz, the palpable electricity, that follows the former world No. 1 wherever he pegs it up.
So as the talking heads over at NBC/Golf Channel got together for a roundtable discussion Tuesday night, it was not exactly a surprise when, lo and behold, the subject turned to the one guy who’s absence this week casts a huge shadow over the proceedings.
"It is quite the highlight reel," Dan Hicks, introducing the "Best of Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open," said. "Some impressive performances turned in by Tiger through the years at the U.S. Open but for the second time as a professional, we will not see Tiger at the U.S. Open [as he sits] out with back issues after the surgery."
Reviewing the Tiger Woods timeline
It's been six years since Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open, his last major, and it's a drought that will continue this week when he misses his sixth major in that same span. What has happened to the game's greatest force?
Hicks noted that Golf Channel analyst and Tiger whisperer Notah Begay reported that his former Stanford teammate was able now to spend time chipping and putting with no pain -- "a huge deal," Hicks quoted Begay quoting Woods.
With no official timetable on his return to competition, Hicks stated the obvious when he observed that "his absence will, of course, be felt here at Pinehurst, as he has performed well in both his appearances, almost too many to get into."
But of course that was hyperbole, as panel members recalled their favorite Tiger USO moments.
Roger Maltbie kicked off the festivities by recalling Woods’ 15-stroke rout at the the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach, and specifically his second shot from the right rough on the sixth hole on Friday afternoon.
"We had seen [from the ESPN TV tower] players drive it there and every one of them pitched it out underneath a huge hilll," Maltbie said.
"He’s got to hit it up across that tree," he said. "He takes this Herculean hack at it and check this out, runs it up onto the green. At that point in time the only thing that came into my head was, ‘It’s just not a fair fight, and it wasn’t.’ He went on to birdie the hole to get to 7-under and then just ran away from the field."
Johnny Miller said he could tell toward the end of Tiger’s first round at Pebble that he was going to put on a show.
"I just got a feeling that he’s going to win with a record score and just shoot an amazing total," Miller said. "Just the confidence he had, that look in his eye ... I could see he was just so much better."
Miller ticked off the attributes Woods sported that week 14 years ago.
"He was at the height of his powers," he said. "He had plenty of strength. He had everything a golfer could want. He was unbelievably long ... He hit his irons higher and nicer than everybody. His mid-irons and short irons were good, his chipping and putting was by far better than everyone ... Pressure putting, nobody could putt like Tiger.
"So we saw the greatest performance in the history of golf, I think, that week," Miller said in obvious awe, "15-shot win."
So enjoy this trip back to yesteryear, via Golf Channel, and you’ll no doubt agree with Hicks when he said, "We can’t wait for Tiger to come back."