On any normal Thursday morning, the return of Tiger Woods, perhaps the most famous sportsman on the planet, would overwhelm the sports day's oxygen tank. But even at Congressional Country Club, the site of his return from a three-plus-month layoff, the U.S. Men's National Team match against Germany stole a significant portion of the crowd interest as Tiger traipsed around finishing up his first round at the Quicken Loans National.
Tiger teed off at 8:12 a.m. ET, well before the TV cameras were turned on and the crowds were at their most dense. But peppered throughout the typical crowd following Woods, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth, were soccer jerseys. The jerseys were all over the grounds at Congressional and in the crowds following Tiger, and really all manner of patriotic apparel -- USA hats, shirts, golf shirts -- were scattered throughout.
It hit me as soon as I was walking in. I trailed a fan in an old EPL Clint Dempsey jersey, but most supporters throughout the crowd were in the newer USA kits.
The best spectator and supporter I met early on had his jersey on and had a Bud heavy in hand before the clock had hit 9 a.m. He was doing his part to get ready for the Noon kick. Tiger, Congressional, USMNT jersey, Budweiser for breakfast -- this guy was my favorite in the crowd.
Seen several USMNT jerseys at Congressional but he got extra freedom points for a pre-9am Bud heavy pic.twitter.com/BKb9N1rGvq— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) June 26, 2014
There were no conflicts for much of Tiger's early AM round, as the tournament host struggled through the front nine and finished 14 of his opening 18 holes before the USA-Germany game started. That's also when Woods' went on his best run of golf, down the stretch over his last six holes, as he got a few shots back with three red numbers. In the media center at Congressional, however, the only show on the big screen was soccer.
Tiger is back but priorities in order on big screen at Congressional media center pic.twitter.com/hqfBkaSczf— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) June 26, 2014
As Tiger wrapped up his round, fans in the crowd following him were constantly checking phones, asking for Portugal-Ghana scores, and wondering how the underdog USA had started in Recife. When the USA fell behind, one volunteer exclaimed, "Goddamit! Germany scored." But as Cristiano Ronaldo scored to put Portugal back ahead of Ghana, fans clapped and spread the news across the gallery. Tournament volunteers who had the fortune of catching a break as the games ended, were back at their station watching intently.
With Tiger off the course as the clock wound down in stoppage time, and with Portugal safely ahead, golf spectators crowded around TVs where they could find them -- in hospitality tents, the clubhouse, and the Congressional pro shop.
A 1-0 loss for the USA didn't provide that crescendo moment, where the cheers went up around the course. But on a day that Tiger Woods would normally own, soccer was the show, even for many right there in attendance at the golf tournament. Friday afternoon, however, when the World Cup takes a day off and Tiger plays in front of the TV cameras, that interest should re-center on Mr. Woods, who will be fighting to make it to the weekend.