Augusta National. in one day. Less than a month before the Masters.
Or, as John Smoltz tells it, just another run-in with his good friend Tiger Woods.
“I’ll fly you down,” he said, “and we’ll play Augusta, and I’ll get you back by 3 o’clock.” could you do that? “Gosh, I want to ask my boss,” Smoltz said with a smile on his face. “Luckily I have a light day.” Long story short, my boss lets me do it, and no one finds out. Up fast we play Augusta, Sunday with every pin as Pin Sunday.”
“I was late getting in, so it caused the practice balls to not hit. I was really excited to get out there. We go to the first tee, pipe him in the middle and hit him in the bunker.
“I said, ‘This could be my day, tiger. And he says, “Yeah, that could be your day.” I double-dipped in from the middle of the fairway and shot him. He shot a 66, he shot a 76. It was one of the coolest experiences to see a guy tear up a golf course, as if it were his own backyard. .
“I carved it.”
Smoltz, who has spent countless hours with Tiger on the golf course, hasn’t played with the major champion 15 times since his February 2021 car accident that injured several parts of his lower body, especially his right leg.
Woods, against all odds, fought back. His first event was the PNC Championships that same year. He will continue to play in three of the four majors in 2022 and Back at the PNC last week.
Although it’s hard to fathom just how difficult the journey was, Smoltz isn’t necessarily surprised Woods was able to pull it off.
“His drive is unlike any other. I mean, he’s right up there with Michael Jordan. From a competitive drive to the ability to conquer and achieve, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Smoltz said. “He’s done it all and wants it all and I think His body is paying some of that price for how crazy he was, and some of the crazy things he was doing. Having said that, going back and reinventing himself, is no easy feat. I don’t even know a fair comparison.
“It would be like Michael Jordan could no longer jump but was still playing basketball.
“That’s what Tiger does today in golf. That fall from where he was to where he was trying to get again was so big that I don’t think many people would even give him a chance to compete again.
“I never suspected the tiger, but I am amazed at what it was capable of.”
Since retiring from Major League Baseball, Smoltz has thrown his hat into the ring at several big events, none bigger than the 2018 PGA Championship.
At the LPGA’s inaugural Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in 2019, Smoltz captured the amateur title.
Then he did it again 12 months later.
He will be on the field next month when the best players in the world descend on Lake Nona in Orlando for the 2023 edition.
Some of the celebrities who will be facing Smoltz are fellow retired MLB-ers Derek Lowe (2022 TOC winner), Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester and Kevin Millar.
Going into the week of 2019, Smoltz thought there was an opportunity to catch up with the ladies.
“I thought I could compete, score, and I was offended, boy. Quick. It was fun watching these pros do their job,” Smoltz said.
“I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised every time how much they control their game. No matter what the wind does, no matter what the circumstances, they have so much control of their game that when you add it all up nothing blows you away, and suddenly they’re 6 under.”
He spent part of last year’s event with Jessica Korda and Annika Sorenstam, adding to the laundry list of stars Smoltz has managed to play with over the years.
But the relationship between him and the best player of all time is special.
At last week’s PNC, Tiger once again played alongside his son, Charlie.
Smoltz knows how much that means to him.
“With everything that’s been going on, and a muddle of some of the things that are going on in golf right now, this brings it back to what’s special about this game,” he said. “You can play it for a long time, but if you can play it with your kids that’s great.”
For the full interview, listen below or Subscribe to the Twilight 9 podcast (free) here.