Golf

Learning breaks, bunkers and Bob Barker: A morning with Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth

Tiger Woods dropped golf balls from about chest high and watched them bounce and roll. He was testing how the ball reacts on Chambers Bay’s fourth green.

“It’s like the old (“Plinko”) game from the Price is Right: ‘Plink! Plink! Plink!” the now-39-year-old Woods said, playfully pantomiming drop and sounds to Jordan Spieth, his playing partner during Tuesday’s second practice round for the 115th U.S. Open.

The 21-year-old Masters champion had no idea who Bob Barker was.

Woods about ate his putter.

“The Price is Right?” the former world No. 1 said, his voice rising incredulously. “Bob Barker?

“He’s not that young, is he?” Woods asked others on the green of the current world No. 2. They were out of earshot of the growing gallery well up the dune beyond the green that had no idea a Bob Barker discussion was going on between the world’s most famous golfer and one of the sport’s rising young superstars.

“He thinks (Barker’s) from ‘Happy Gilmore,’ ” Woods said of the Adam Sandler movie. “C’mon, man!

“This is when you know you are old.”

With that, plus a shaking head, Woods went back off the front of the mammoth, rolling green to practice using his putter on a half-dozen shots from about 80 yards out.

Woods is here trying to regain his magic that won a whopping 14 majors — but none since the 2008 U.S. Open.

Spieth is here trying to join Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods as the only men to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. A victory at Chambers Bay, beginning with Thursday’s first round, would make Spieth the first player since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to win multiple majors at age 21 or younger.

Following both on the front nine of their early (7 a.m. start time) practice round from inside the ropes in the British Open-like gray, chill, wind and fescue-plus-links tableau showed golf’s former young phenom and its current one are taking opposite tacks this week.

Woods nailed another tee shot about 300 yards down the middle of the fairway on the downhill, 488-yard 5th. The crowd roared and yelled, “Yeah, Tiger!” and “Take it easy on them out here, Tiger!”

There were about five yells for Woods for every one for Spieth on the front nine — when it seemed everyone who was at the course at 7:50 a.m. were watching and following these two.

Spieth sent his drive on hole No. 5 left and into one of Chambers Bay’s many sprawling bunkers, far left, another in a string of early-round tee shots Spieth didn’t exactly love.

Woods then walked down the fifth fairway chatting and laughing with University of Georgia golf coach Chris Haack, another friend Woods warmly greeted when he arrived inside the ropes early in the round.

At the same time Spieth walked alone down the side of the fairway, far ahead of his caddie, University Place’s Michael Greller. That was after conferring with Greller, who played the first round at this former sand quarry before it even opened.

All business.

The morning offered more (literally) cool, rare scenes with two of golf’s top players.

When Spieth sent his drive on the par-3 third far over and left of the tiny, undulating green, Woods said: “Have fun with that.”

Then Tiger plopped his tee shot into the bunker in front of the green. Spieth didn’t say anything.

They traded thoughts on reads. They each tossed balls into a deep bunker in front of the green at No. 5 and alternated hitting sand shots out of it. On No. 6, Woods and Spieth stood facing each other, about 30 feet apart on each side of the hole, and putted simultaneously to read the dry, rolling and fast track.

Deputies from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department flanked them as they walked up and down from hole to hole. Down the sixth fairway the deputies talked to Spieth, who is considering ice baths this week to keep his legs fresh from all the walking over the 7,900-plus yards of dunes.

After Woods’ drive on the seventh hole, a monster beyond 320 yards down the center of the uphill fairway on the 508-yard par 4, he walked left down a gravel path to use a porta-potty. A sheriff’s deputy followed him and dutifully stood a dozen or so yards outside during Woods’ mini-break.

When he re-emerged, he passed more of the growing throng.

“That was fun,” a mother said to her young son as one of golf’s heroes passed them, “to see Tiger Woods.”

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