Oh, how we’ve missed the Sundays of spring.
Those lazy, heady non-football days when Tiger Woods, wearing a bright red shirt, was in contention and playing well. It didn’t matter whether the tournament was a major or one sponsored by a major paint company. When Woods was on, he was appointment viewing.
Well, he’s on again. He enters play Sunday one stroke back of leader Corey Conners in the Valspar Championship and, if the leader board didn’t inform you of that fact, the sights and sounds of the crowd at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course would tip you to the facts that Tigermania is once again a very real thing.
Look no farther than the scene Friday, when Woods’s caddie Joe LaCava watched fans surround the portable toilet Woods had entered on the 17th tee. “People following him in there with a camera,” LaCava said (via the New York Times). “It’s ridiculous.”
When Woods answered the call of nature at another portable toilet Saturday, The Washington Post’s Dave Sheinin relays that one fan yelled, “Get it all out, Tiger!”
Most of the fans were a little more composed, but many, as Sheinin reported, were yelling, “I love you.” Open your ears as you watch on TV and you’ll hear the renewed vigor in the voices of the yutzes who scream, “Get in the hole!” with every shot.
The Masters this is not. The insanity began ramping up when Woods at the last minute added the tournament at LaCava’s urging. Tournament director Tracy West told TBO.com that crowds were expected to surge to 30,000 on Saturday and Sunday, up from 21,000 over the weekend a year ago.
“We had 112,000 people last year, and it’s going be at least 140,000, maybe 150,000,” West said. “The crowds are larger. I know they were up 40 percent on Thursday from last year.”
By Sunday, officials were saying that 150,000 was their attendance figure. “It’s as loud as I’ve heard it in a long time,” Brandt Snedeker said (via Sheinin) Saturday.
Not that you can blame them. Woods was, for the 70th time, at or within one stroke of the lead after 54 holes on PGA Tour, according to the Golf Channel. He has won 62 of those 69 instances.
Social media posts — there were over 100,000 tweets during the third round — and TV ratings are sure to follow (3 p.m., NBC). According to NBC, Saturday’s broadcast delivered the highest-rated third round on any network on the PGA Tour for 12 years.
“It feels like it’s back to ’12 or ’13,” said LaCava, Woods’s caddie since 2011. “Back to the good ol’ days, for sure.”
And people on the course weren’t the only ones going a little nuts.
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