Tiger gets his focus back to golf again
For years, Tiger Woods heard his Green Beret father talk about life in the military and felt the stir of curiosity.
After spending four days at this sprawling Army post, the golf great now knows some of what Earl Woods experienced as a soldier 40 years ago.
Woods trained with various Army units, fired weapons, awoke early for 4-mile runs and twice jumped from a plane.
By Friday, he was back on familiar ground, hosting a junior golf clinic and providing one-on-one instruction for eight young golfers. He seemed completely at ease, smiling often as he tutored the youngsters and talked about his crash course in the military.
``My father shared a lot of his military experiences with me as I was growing up,'' Woods said. ``For me it was neat to look back on history. It's not that I didn't understand what my dad did, but to physically see what he did just shed a whole new light on it.''
That his training was a watered-down version of what his father went through during two tours of duty at Fort Bragg in the Vietnam era hardly mattered to Woods. He said the experience alone reinforced many of the lessons his father taught him.
Earl Woods first trained at Fort Bragg in 1963 following a tour in Vietnam. The elder Woods also was assigned to a Special Forces unit here before leaving for another tour in 1970.
On Monday, after finishing 22nd at the Masters, Tiger Woods flew by private jet to Pope Air Force Base, which is next to Fort Bragg. Woods was issued a uniform, received briefings on the installation and attended several social functions on the post, Bragg spokesman Lt. Col. Bill Buckner said.
By Tuesday morning, Woods was in uniform for three days of training. The schedule began with physical fitness training at 6:30 a.m. each day.
On Thursday, he completed two tandem jumps with the Golden Knights, the Army parachute team based here. Woods was attached to an instructor for the jumps from 13,500 feet.
Reporters were barred from covering the training sessions after Woods said he wanted the experience to be a private one.
Members of the Golden Knights presented Woods with a plaque on Friday adorned with a photo of the jump. In it, Woods is wearing a yellow jumpsuit and goggles with his arms outstretched. He's smiling broadly.
``I was so excited. I couldn't wait to go,'' Woods said. ``I'm one of those people who love to ride rollercoasters, so to me it's like the ultimate rollercoaster.
``It's an experience I'll never forget. You're going 120 miles per hour, but it still feels like you're floating.''
Also on Thursday, Woods participated in a 4-mile run with members of the 18th Airborne Corps. Woods and 400 members of the unit finished the cadence-call run in just over 31 minutes, four minutes better than the standard time.
Woods saw many similarities between military training and the preparation he does to compete on the PGA Tour.
``The only difference (in the run) was yelling at the top of my lungs and singing along with the guys,'' Woods said. ``I'm used to running alone with my MP3 player.''
``Throughout the week, I think everyone was impressed with his physical abilities,'' Buckner said. ``He's a good soldier.''
Woods' competition on the golf course will be disappointed to learn that Woods may have picked up something that will help him on the putting green during firearms training. Earl Woods said his son discovered while trying to aim the guns that he is left-eye dominant.
``He's found that out for the first time in his life -- here,'' Earl Woods said. ``It's applicable to golf because you use your dominant eye to determine the break on a putt. And he could never do that. Now he has that capability.''
After conducting the youth clinic on Friday, Tiger Woods gave a skills exhibition for about 4,300 soldiers, students and invited guests, some of whom won tickets in a lottery.
He arrived in a Humvee, sitting at the helm of a machine gun, to cheers from the audience.
Bragg is one of the nation's largest Army posts, with nearly 47,000 soldiers. Thousands are currently deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
``I'm just trying to hit the ball into a little bitty cup that's 400 yards away,'' Woods said. ``These people here are putting their lives on the line. That to me is the ultimate dedication. They're doing it for our country to keep all of us safe.''
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