Woods reflects on passing of NBA great Bryant
January 26, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods comments on the passing of Kobe Bryant
SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods was unaware of the tragic passing of friend and NBA legend Kobe Bryant as he was trying to set a new mark for all-time wins on the PGA TOUR at the Farmers Insurance Open.
The news of Bryant and his daughter being on board a downed helicopter that took several lives in Los Angeles filtered across Torrey Pines midway through Woods’ final round, but his caddie Joe LaCava decided not to pass it on until the round was over.
As more and more fans caught up with the news, an eerie quiet filled the vast course, something Woods assumed was more about his inability to make a serious charge towards victory, rather than anything else. Even with spectators calling out for him to “Do it for Mamba,” a nod to Bryant’s nickname, Woods remained unaware of the tragedy.
When he walked from the course, LaCava finally broke the news, and Woods was clearly shaken.
“It's unbelievable, the reality that he's no longer here,” Woods told reporters. “I just can't imagine what their entire family's going through right now. It's just shocking.
“LeBron breaks his record and he passes today. I grew up a die‑hard Laker fan, always have been my entire life. That's all I remember, and he was part of the most historic franchise in all of the NBA.”
Woods and Bryant became close having started their professional careers around a similar time frame. They often worked out together and would engage each other in discussion on what it took to be at the top of their chosen athletic endeavors.
“When he retired we'd work out at Equinox together. I was always getting up early, he'd get up early, we'd work out,” Woods said. “We really connected on more the mental side of it, the prep, how much it takes to be prepared.
“For me, I don't have to react like he does in my sport, we can take our time, but you've still got to pay attention to the details and that's what he did better than probably any other player in NBA history. He paid attention to the details, the little things.
“The amount of hours that he spent in the gym in the offseason and during the summers to work on shots and do all the different things, it looked like it came natural to him on the court during game time, but he spent more hours looking at film and trying to figure out what's the best way to become better. That's where he and I really connected, because we're very similar.”
Along with the work ethic, Woods also revered Bryant’s toughness both mentally and physically, another trait he tried to share with the five-time NBA Champion.
“What made him so impressive is that he was dominant on the offensive side … we know that, but he would lock up on (defense). He played their best guard and shut 'em down for all 48 minutes. That's what made him so special, he played both ends of the court,” Woods continued.
“There are maybe two guys, three guys in the entire NBA history that you can say that, that would do that. He was up for that challenge. And one of the more impressive things that I've ever witnessed is when he ruptured his Achilles and he went to the foul line, made his shots.
“Ultimate toughness, ultimate competitor, and one of the most shocking, tragic days that I've ever been a part of in a very quick span here … Life is very fragile as we all know. You can be gone at any given time and we have to appreciate the moments that we have.”
On the course Woods’ chase for an 83rd PGA TOUR win and ninth win at Torrey Pines started in crazy fashion. Starting five back of the lead Woods looked to be in huge trouble early when he made a sloppy bogey from the fairway on the first hole.
But on the second he took dead aim from 141 yards and after two hops his ball disappeared into the cup for what would’ve been an insane eagle. Incredibly though, despite going all the way to the bottom of the cup the ball hopped back out and settled next to the pin. Woods had to settle for a tap in birdie.
Shot of the Day
Tiger Woods' would-be eagle is the Shot of the Day
Three pars followed before Woods gave himself a great look at eagle on the par-5 sixth from 18 feet, but the putt slipped under the cup. Birdie there had him just three off the lead at the time.
Woods, who has seven Farmers Insurance Open titles and a U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines, would not get any closer. He had great looks at birdie on the par-4 seventh and the par-3 eighth but failed to connect and failed to birdie the par-5 ninth.
A bogey at the 10th made thoughts of a win extremely distant and despite birdies on the final two par 5s he would settle for a T9 finish, his 13th Farmers Insurance Open top-10 from 19 starts.
Woods is currently tied with Sam Snead with 82 PGA TOUR wins, the most of all time and will next be seen at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on Feb. 13.