MILWAUKEE - On the eve of his professional debut, three-time U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods was so calm that his biggest worry Wednesday was where to get something to eat.
"I don't know where to stay, what restaurants to eat at, so I'm going to have to stick with McDonald's, something greasy," said the 20-year-old golfer who will play his first pro round today in the Greater Milwaukee Open.
Area golf fans will miss him in the 1997 Masters Tournament, unless he finishes in the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list this year or wins a tournament before next April. Woods forfeited his Masters spot because he qualified as an amateur, not a pro.
However, Woods will make his third professional appearance, in the Buick Challenge, Sept. 26-29 at Pine Mountain, Ga., along with John Daly, Greg Norman, PGA champion Mark Brooks and Fred Couples.
"I think he'll have a big impact on our gallery," said Bob Berry, executive director of the Buick Challenge. "We have found this out with John Daly and Greg Norman. Those kind of people, high-profile players, you will attract non-golfers also. They bring the excitement, people wanting to be right in the middle of it. We think it will help us tremendously."
Woods announced Wednesday he will also play in five events, including the Buick, this fall. He said he will also play in the Skins Game Nov. 28-Dec. 1.
"Sunday night, after I got home, I told my parents, `Yep, it's time to go,'°" Woods said of when he made his decision, the night of his third straight U.S. Amateur title.
So there he was Wednesday, getting lost on his way to Brown Deer Park Golf Course, leaving him little time to practice for the pro-am, where he shot a 2-under-par 69.
Woods didn't even have his $100 entry fee. So, his swing coach, Butch Harmon, bailed him out, telling him: "I'll loan it to you. You're probably good for it."
Although Woods said he has not finalized any endorsement contracts so far, he is working out details with Nike and Titleist. The Nike deal is for a reported $40 million over five years.
"I'm not resentful, no," defending GMO champion Scott Hoch said. "He's got impeccable credentials. But I'm sure there's some jealousy."
"It's sort of like basketball. You ask, `How can they pay that when a guy hasn't made a free throw yet?' Here, you ask, `How can they justify that when he hasn't hit a golf shot yet?' If it works out, they might end up looking like brilliant businessmen."
Steve Stricker, who took second in the World Series of Golf last weekend, said he believes some players can't wait for Woods to fall flat on his face.
"No doubt about it, especially I think with the type of money he's making," Stricker said. "I mean, the No. 1 player in the world doesn't get that kind of money, I don't think."
"It's really unbelievable, but I guess it's worth it for the companies that have him. They must see the value in that. But here's a guy who hasn't even gotten his tour card yet and he's making $43 million. That's a lot of money."
Woods said he knows there will be some bitterness.
"I'm sure that there might be a little animosity," he said. "That's only natural. It's like that in every sport, every work place. But I have enough friends out here. They've accepted me for who I am."
It won't take long to see Woods' mug all over the place.
Nike will debut a TV commercial and a three-page advertisement in today's edition of the Wall Street Journal that heralds Woods' arrival.
Both spots are titled, "Hello World" and detail Woods' many golfing accomplishments. The ad copy concludes: "There are still golf courses in the United States that I cannot play because of the color of my skin. I'm told I'm not ready for you. Are you ready for me?"
Woods was dressed in black slacks with green Nike shirt, black Nike cap and black Nike golf shoes, all emblazoned with the trademark Nike swoosh. Woods also had a brand new Titleist golf bag with "Tiger Woods" in big letters on the Side.
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