Watching Tiger Woods on ‘Not Moving Back Day’ was the only show in town. You could count those trailing David Toms in the penultimate group. But there were thousands upon thousands stalking Tiger around the Olympic Club as he set off with his pal and sometime Ryder Cup partner Jim Furyk in the final group at one under par in a tie for the lead.
Indeed, the noise at times rivalled anything a Ryder Cup crowd can throw at the players. This is the closest golfers get to feel like footballers. And, boy, American golf fans do like the sound of their own voices.
They yelled at Tiger all the way around his third round. He may win today or he may not. After a five over par 75, he is five shots off the lead held jointly by Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell at one under par. But as far as the fans are concerned, Tiger’s popularity is back.
Gone are the wise cracks, derision and sexual innuendo heckles. Tiger, once again, is feeling the love of His People. They shouted their approval at the 6th. Not for a birdie but for stinging one off the tee down the middle of the fairway.
One fan even shouted out putting advice as Tiger walked to the green. “Everything’s missing left, Tiger.” He bogeyed anyway yet they still cheered him onto the 7th tee.
There must have been four thousand fans crammed onto the grassy bank around the 8th green. The roar that greeted Tiger felt like the Romans welcoming Maximus into the Coliseum.
“Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom,” Oliver Reed told Russell Crowe. It’s official: Tiger is forgiven. He has the crowd back on his side.
So who will claim the trophy and be crowned the 112th US Open? Whether it is Tiger or Lee Westwood or Jim Furyk, Ernie Els or even amateur sensation Beau Hossler, they will do well to take the advice of 2006 champion Geoff Ogilvy. “The winner will be the guy who is going backwards the slowest late Sunday.”