BOB SMILEY IS A FUNNY GUY. FOLLOW THE ROAR, Bob’s book on tailing Tiger Woods during the 2008 season, is filled with wit and the right touch of silliness. Some of the characters and anecdotes reminded me of a Bill Bryson tale.
But here’s another thing about this TV writer: He is a smart observer of this crazy game. If you read this book, I’m pretty certain you’ll make some new discoveries about Tiger (and pro golf), just as Bob did on his 604-hole trek. And you’ll have plenty of laughs along the way.
Bob answered my questions yesterday.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: First of all, for all of us guys, how in the world did you talk your wife into this adventure?
BOB SMILEY: Easy. After being more or less unemployed for two years, my wife’s definition of “legitimate job” had grown a little fuzzy. Then, at the end of January, right as I was leaving for the Buick Invitational, HarperCollins signed on to the idea. It also helped that I was going to follow a golfer who only played 15 times a year. She never would have given me a green light to follow Vijay Singh for the year. Then again, neither would HarperCollins.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Can you take on any of us guys like, you know, as a coach?
BOB SMILEY: Sure. And in this economy, I don’t even care what kind of coach you’re talking about. I’ll pretend to be an expert.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: I noticed you kept a very precise timeline in the book. What was your timepiece of choice?
BOB SMILEY: Most of the days, just a normal wristwatch. But occasionally I’d wear one of those giant clocks around my neck like Flavor Fav.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Starting on your next answer, could you add a timeline to the rest of this Q&A, like in the book? I think that would be kind of cool.
BOB SMILEY: 10:26 a.m.* No thanks.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Can you share one of your “aha’s” about Tiger, something you would not have learned about him without following him the way you did?
BOB SMILEY: Tiger is much more personable and likeable than the Ivan Drago-type persona he usually displays during his round. On plenty of occasions, usually when he was waiting for a ruling or sitting on a backed-up tee box, he would drop the facade and joke with his fellow players, caddies, even fans. But the second it was time to play, the shield went up and it was back to business.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Do you think golf spectators ever “choke”?
BOB SMILEY: Oh sure. Usually this comes in the form of indecision. “Should we wait here next to the tee or go to the green? Or should we grab some hot dogs? Hey, is that Joe Durant?” By the time you decide what you want to do, you’re half a hole behind Tiger and his mob.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What were some of the strangest things you saw on your side of the ropes during those 604 holes?
BOB SMILEY: I met a guy named Kenny at Bay Hill who got caught in a rainstorm, didn’t bring a jacket, and didn’t have money to buy one. So he slithered into a green trash bag that he stole from a janitor and shuffled down the cart path, his feet only able to move a few inches at a time.
At the U.S. Open, I saw people having panic attacks or passing out from the crush of fans. A golf course isn’t normally the place you’d expect to see people suffering from claustrophobia.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: You recently traveled to the Accenture Match Play in Arizona to witness Tiger’s return to golf. What happened to you in the desert?
BOB SMILEY: I wanted to be there for Tiger’s return, to experience the madness of following Tiger one last time. After watching Tiger knock off Brendan Jones, I walked into a cactus, accidentally drank a curdled beverage that had been cooking in my car for 24 hours and took it as a sign to go home. I’d learned all there was to learn from Tiger based on what he did in 2008. Turns out by leaving early I saved myself from having to watch Tiger lose.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Since you left the tournament after the first round, do you think you bear any responsibility for Tiger’s loss, or is it all on him?
BOB SMILEY: I’m not comfortable blaming Tiger or me for his loss. Let’s just blame the USGA for allowing Tim Clark to use that belly putter.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What were you driving last year when you were following Tiger?
BOB SMILEY: My 2000 Ford Explorer.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: And now that you’re a hotshot golf author, what do you drive?
BOB SMILEY: My 2000 Ford Explorer.
You can also follow Bob at his blog, FORE RIGHT.
FREE Drawing for Autographed Copy of FOLLOW THE ROAR!
Enter the free drawing (at above right) for an autographed hardcover edition of FOLLOW THE ROAR: Tailing Tiger for All 604 Holes of His Most Spectacular Season by Bob Smiley.
−The Armchair Golfer