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Tiger Woods shines at golf clinic

Tiger Woods was wrapping up an appearance at a golf clinic when he was asked to offer advice for his young fans.

He knew exactly whose guidance to pass along.

"I think the greatest advice is to care and share. My dad was so adamant about that line," Woods said. "He said if you care about something, you'll share it. And if you love life, you'll share life. I love kids and I'll share with them whatever I have."

Woods was at the Alotian Club outside of Little Rock on Tuesday, making his first public golf-related appearance since the Masters. His father, Earl, died May 3, and Woods hasn't played since he tied for third at Augusta National on April 9.

He played a round at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., on Saturday, an indication he'll be back there June 15-18 for the U.S. Open. Woods came to Arkansas and put on a demonstration for a few dozen children, a clinic that coincided with the inaugural Jackson T. Stephens Charitable Golf Tournament.

Woods wasn't asked about his father, but he spoke of him several times. He explained that his swing tempo is faster than most despite his dad's urging to slow it down, and Woods also mentioned his father while joking about how tightly he grips the club.

"My dad always tried to get me to loosen up my grip," Woods said. "He finally gave up on me and said, `You know what? Hey, just do what you do."'

The Arkansas tournament, held Monday and Tuesday, is named after Jack Stephens, the late billionaire, philanthropist and former chief executive officer of Stephens Inc.

Stephens was chairman of Augusta National in 1997, when Woods won the Masters there for his first major championship.

Woods stressed early on that he wanted his demonstration to be interactive, and turned around often for questions from the audience, although he didn't talk to reporters afterward.

When asked how he would prepare for the U.S. Open, Woods said he had plenty of practicing to do.

"Obviously, you have to drive the ball great at U.S. Opens. You can't win a U.S. Open driving the ball poorly," Woods said. "Work on my driving and really work on my irons, distance control."

Woods took the audience through his warmup routine, hitting from an elevated practice area into a large valley with several target greens. He flashed his usual bright smile throughout and kept the atmosphere loose.

"Over my playing career, I haven't hit every fairway. Hence, the last name Woods," he quipped.

The children at the clinic were seated on a small incline behind Woods as he hit. At the start, Woods said other spectators seated in chairs farther back could move closer if they wanted. Afterward, he posed for pictures with the kids.

"Tiger's not at all what I thought he would be," said Hayley Carter, 15, of Greenwood. "I pictured him as being quiet and off to himself, but he was a lot different."

Warren Stephens, Jack Stephens' son, was grateful to Woods for putting on such an entertaining show despite a nagging cough that had him reaching for a bottle of water.

"I know he doesn't feel well, but unless somebody told you, I don't think you'd know it," Stephens said.

Stephens took over the microphone to thank Woods afterward, although the audience was a bit distracted. In the background, Woods was juggling a ball on the face of his club -- then he hit it out of the air one-handed with the club.

That and other seldom-seen shots were among the morning's highlights. Woods also showed off a shot in which he takes almost a full swing with an open clubface -- and the ball pops up in the air and lands about 3 feet in front of him.

While explaining that shot, he told a don't-try-this-at-home tale of how he used to practice it -- by trying to hit the ball over a coffee table and land it short of a fireplace.

"When mom wasn't home, I moved the table more over here," he said, demonstrating. "And I would add some of mom's crystal either on top or right in front of my golf ball."

May 31, 2006

 




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