I realize this isn't a valid comparison. But following Tiger Woods around Augusta National Monday reminded me of following Danica Patrick at Danica Beach, Fla. There were only three golfers on the course -- Tiger, playing partner Freddie Couples and Everybody Else.
I went to the first tee at 7:30 a.m., a half hour before Tiger would tee off and a half hour before fans would be allowed onto the course. I was the only reporter there. I walked around, knowing I could get a place close to Tiger. When I returned, a security guard stopped me -- no media on the course until 8 a.m., he said.
Ten minutes earlier I was allowed on the course. What happened?
Tiger was on the putting green.
When Tiger finally swept in behind a thick security guard who moved like a pulling guard, I was about 10 yards away. Fans greeted him courteously, but without passion. This continued this the first three holes. Fans cheered his shots more than they cheered him.
Of course there were cries of "Get 'em, Tiger!" after which fans realized it was acceptable to cheer. But the gallery offered golf claps. And, as they left the tee, Couples often received more attention than Tiger.
And the longer he went, the louder the applause became. It was as if fans needed a few holes to forgive him. But the cheers never attained passionate. Golf claps. There were many golf claps.
Nobody yelled anything nasty at Tiger. This is the Masters, afterall, and fans came to cheer. Had he worn a cut-off T-shirt that revealed quantities of tattoos, fans still would have cheered, although some would have gone hom.
Tiger responded. He acknowledged fans, nodded, laughed, waved, even shook their hands.
So there were major differences between Tiger and Danica. Tiger smiled, and he has a chance to win.