Mark Murdock was tempted to pinch himself to make sure it wasn't all a dream.
The 42-year-old native of Houston was still having a hard time believing he'd just gotten a fist bump from Tiger Woods after his shot out of a bunker on the No. 2 hole Wednesday at Aronimink dropped into the cup.
"I was still trying to get oxygen in my lungs from being so nervous as we started," Murdock said. "I didn't think it could get much better than that."
Murdock was in Woods' foursome at the AT&T National Pro-Am and, for the amateur golfer, it was the thrill of a lifetime.
"To watch the best player in the world play golf all day long up close was a big thrill for me," Murdock said. "He hit a couple of drives that were just awesome. It was just fun to see. I don't know how you can top this. I should probably retire after this. It was just a great day."
Matters will turn more serious for Woods on Thursday when he begins defense of his AT&T National title. It's his first-ever PGA Tour event in the Philadelphia area.
Woods got to test Aronimink for the first time in the Pro-Am. His scheduled tee time for the first round is 12:56 p.m. Woods wasn't available to the media to offer his opinions on how the course played, but he made it a memorable day for folks such as Murdock and OS2 Spencer Walker of the U.S. Coast Guard, one of 26 military personnel from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware serving as honorary caddies on the 17th tee.
After Woods and Walker were introduced, Tiger drove his tee shot to the front of the green on the picturesque par-3 17th. He gestured to Walker to come over and he handed him his putter. Woods stepped off to the side. Walker walked to the ball and offered to give Woods the putter back, but Tiger held his hands up and walked away. Walker missed the putt. Again, he offered to give Woods the putter. "No, finish up," Woods said. Walker ended up four-putting.
Woods used the round to become familiar with Aronimink's difficult greens. He would putt, then wait for his Pro-Am partners to finish before practicing putts from different corners of the green, where he felt they might place the pins when the tournament begins.
Woods was waiting on the 16th tee when a shout of "Fore!" went up and a small girl started crying, screaming that she wanted to go home. Woods turned to his caddie, Steve Williams, and asked if the girl had been hit. She had been. Woods launched his drive and the crowd marveled. "Good ball, Tiger." "Way to go, Tiger." Woods picked up his tee and flipped it toward a small group of youngsters.
After he hit his drive on the 18th, Woods walked slowly up the fairway and signed a half-dozen or so caps. A group of about 25 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Bridesburg, all wearing blue T-shirts, began chanting "Let's Go Tiger" as Woods approached the ball. Woods waved to them, hit his shot, then waved to them again as he continued up the fairway.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or firstname.lastname@example.org