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Tiger Woods can handle hecklers, NBC golf announcer says

Baltimore Sun

To hear Brad Faxon tell it, the hecklers will have no chance against Tiger Woods.

Faxon recalled playing with Woods several years ago at The Players Championship. Between holes a man from the gallery yelled: "Hey, Tiger, I've got my red shirt on, but I'll let you wear it Sunday!"

"This guy was serious," Faxon said. "And he was screaming. And Tiger had no reaction to it.

"When you play with Tiger, the things that people say make you buckle in laughter and amazement. And he walks by like the deafest person in the world. He has always been able to tune that stuff out."

Faxon will be taking the opposite route, keeping his ears open as he mines for anecdotes to boost NBC's weekend coverage of the World Golf Championships at Doral. The 28-year PGA Tour vet has signed with NBC to do seven high-profile events in 2010, beginning Saturday at the Blue Monster in Florida.

Faxon can't say what style he'll bring to the booth but said he'll try to follow executive producer Tommy Roy's directive to give viewers insight into the lives of his fellow golfers.

Faxon joked about asking, "Boxers or briefs?"

More likely, he said, he might mention that Honda Classic winner Camilo Villegas trains with an Olympic cyclist during bike rides. Or that Ian Poulter just released a spring line of clothing.

"You're going to have 7 to 8 seconds to set up a guy's shot into a green, and that's not the best time to mention his new red Ferrari," Faxon said. "You have to make it relevant."

Faxon's eight PGA Tour victories make him relevant, not to mention his trustworthy, good-guy status on tour and the fact he has teed it up six times this year, making one cut. He put himself in prime position by shooting 69 Thursday at the Honda. He followed that with an 80.

"It wasn't like I thought: At least I've got NBC next week," Faxon said. "There's probably that ego that says I'm still a golfer, not an announcer, and I can still compete out here. But I'm so proud to have the position at NBC. Those spots don't open very often."

Faxon, who will replace Bob Murphy, follows the conventional wisdom about Woods' schedule. Faxon figures if Woods intends to play the Masters, he'll use an event such as the March 25-28 Arnold Palmer Invitational to test the thickness of his skin.

Woods' deadline for entering Bay Hill is March 19.

"He knows wherever he goes, the first time, he'll get asked the toughest questions and face the most scrutiny," Faxon said. "It will be the chance for fans to make him emotional on either side."

Faxon is friendly with Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg. When Faxon saw him eating breakfast Wednesday morning at Doral, Faxon told him good-naturedly: "Man, you look old."

Steinberg replied with "a certain gesture," Faxon said, as buddies are known to do.

As for the question of when Woods will return, Faxon replied: "My inside sources either don't know or don't want to say."

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