Aussie was last golfer to play with Tiger
In Tiger Woods’ last tournament before his world was rocked with an infidelity scandal, the Australian golfer who played with him said Woods mentioned how he could stay in touch with his family when he was on the road.
“I remember him talking about how good Skype was for his kids and his wife,” Cameron Percy said in a telephone interview during the Australian PGA Championship last week. “It’s unreal that no one close to him knew about it. No one knew, I suppose. Up until then, he was the perfect role model for anyone.”
Percy considered the final round of the Australian Masters on Nov. 15 as the biggest day of his career, and now it carries an added distinction. He was the last golfer to play with Woods before his “indefinite leave” from golf to try to save his marriage.
“It was the best day of my life, and I suppose it’s tainted a bit,” Percy said. “But I’ll keep the memories.”
Percy, who grew up in Melbourne, was two shots off the lead and in the second-to-last group with Woods. His entire family was part of the record crowd at Kingston Heath that saw Woods close with a 68 and win for the 82nd time in his career. Percy, rattled by fairways that looked narrow with fans lining both sides of them, shot 72 and tied for sixth.
“A local boy from Melbourne, playing with Tiger Woods in front of the biggest crowds,” Percy said. “Everyone in that field wanted to be me that day.”
Two weeks later, Percy was on a family holiday when a friend called and told him to turn on his TV. He saw a picture of Woods and a photo of the damaged SUV that Woods drove into a tree. Then came allegations of rampant affairs, and part of Percy wondered if that was the same guy dressed in a red shirt and playing flawless golf Down Under.
“It was bizarre,” Percy said. “My initial thinking was, ‘This can’t be right.”‘
Percy recalls Woods greeting him on the first tee and putting the unheralded Australian at ease with small talk.
“I remember there was a kid crying in the crowd on the third hole, and we were having a chat about how we used to wonder why people brought their kids to the course, but now that we have kids of our own, it doesn’t bother us,” Percy said.
Woods announced his indefinite leave from golf last week, and even when he returns, no one can be sure if he will continue to play overseas as much. Woods promised the crowd at Melbourne that he won’t wait another 11 years before returning.
How will the fans embrace him should he return?
“I can’t see this being an issue,” Percy said. “Our biggest idol is Greg Norman ó not much difference there. The golfing public just loves to watch his golf. We have athletes in trouble for one thing or another. Once they’re on the sporting field, it’s all right.”