Out in the rough, fans find ways to roar for Tiger & Co

Tiger Woods supporters, like this young fan, peer through fences and climb ladders outside TPC Harding Park to cheer him on at the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods supporters, like this young fan, peer through fences and climb ladders outside TPC Harding Park to cheer him on at the PGA Championship.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO • Golf fans not allowed on the course for last week's PGA Championship due to the Covid-19 pandemic still found a way to root for Tiger Woods and other top players, cheering through fences and from rooftops to provide a brief jolt of energy at the hushed tournament.

TPC Harding Park sits on the shore above San Francisco's Lake Merced so there are few places for spectators to catch a glimpse of the action from outside the gates.

One exception is the tee box on the par-four 12th hole, which is adjacent to a sidewalk where a few dozen die-hard fans peered through holes cut in the canvas covering a chain-link fence.

"Having the opportunity to see Tiger Woods, who is in a league with only Serena Williams and Michael Jordan for American athletes who are the greatest in the history of their sport - I couldn't pass that up," said San Francisco resident Carl Carpenter, 33.

Despite struggling to a two-over 72 in Saturday's third round which left him on two-over 212 and extinguished any hope of a victory, 15-time Major champion Woods waved to the fans when they let out a roar following his tee shot on No. 12, and other players also appreciated the enthusiasm.

"You can tell that they are really receptive to our being here. Everyone seems to be smiling as they come past," Carpenter said.

More daring fans used a ladder to climb onto a nearby rooftop that gave them a view of the green on the 12th hole and the tee box on the 13th until police came and confiscated the ladder, fans said.

"I started playing golf when I was five, watching Tiger every Saturday and Sunday morning," said Adam Yount, 26, who had tickets to the tournament before they were refunded. "I can't wait for fans to be allowed back. It's not the same watching it on TV.

"Not hearing those roars for Tiger - I feel bad for him. He doesn't have that momentum backing him."

The 44-year-old Woods, who usually plays in front of packed galleries cheering him on, did not use the lack of crowds as an excuse.

"Saturday of a Major is usually pretty rowdy," he said.

"This is our new norm. We have to get used to it."

 

And it is not just the sound effect that is lacking. The absence of fans has altered the competition.

Some players, like Paul Casey, complained that the course's low energy was affecting their performance.

Others noted that Harding Park's fierce rough has not been helpfully trampled by the feet of fans. An unlucky few have lost balls that normally would not have gone missing.

"I flat-out don't like it - plain and simple," said Casey (68), who was among a trio tied for fourth on 203, two shots behind leader Dustin Johnson (65).

"Nothing I can do, obviously, but I miss it. I play golf at home with nobody around, and I much prefer it out here.

"This is why I love what I get to do, and it's changed the dynamic of it. "

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2020, with the headline 'Out in the rough, fans find ways to roar for Tiger & Co'. Print Edition | Subscribe