Water Works a.k.a the 2007 Presidents Cup
The Getty Images crew headed north of the border to work at the Presidents Cup on a small, pretty island in a suburb of Montreal. The event features the best 12 players from the USA against the best 12 players from the world (minus Europe).
The event is similiar to the Ryder Cup because it features several days of match-play golf with the final day of 12 singles matches that decide the cup. The Presidents Cup features none of the passion, tension or history that shrouds the Ryder Cup, but off we went to chase Tiger, Ernie, Jack, Mike and company around the amazing Royal Montreal Golf Club.
The event is in Montreal for 2 reasons. First, Mike Weir won the 2003 Masters. This was huge for golf in Canada. Here comes a tiny, left-handed player who fought his way into a play-off to win the green jacket. Secondly, it is an easy flight for the millionaires on the PGA Tour who have just come off an aggressive run of big money events starting at the PGA Championship thru the four-event FedEx Cup Playoffs. The talk later in the week was how many of the big name players from the USA would travel to Australia in four years time when the event takes place in Melbourne.
Our crew of David Cannon, Streeter Lecka, Sam Greenwood and myself roamed around the course following the practice rounds as the players and captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player sought to find the best pairings of players for the four ball and foursome matches.
Most of the talk among the fans and in the papers was who would play Tiger Woods in the Sunday singles. It came down to two, Nick O’Hern and Mike Weir. O’Hern has beaten Tiger twice in match-play events and would not be scared at all by the biggest name is golf. Weir was the player nearly everybody at the event wanted to see face Woods. Weir has not played very well since his win at the ’03 Masters and even required one of the two captains pick to get on the team.
At the opening ceremonies, both the captains greeted the passionate fans under a crisp, clear evening. Each of the countries that were represented had their anthems sung and each player was introduced. The biggest picture to come from the evening was the hug and kiss that Gary Player planted on Mike Weir.
Weir seemed very glad to have been picked and was beamed as he walked across the stage to greet Player. We ran back with our pics and sent a nice selection from that moving moment. We ran into Montreal that night and one of us walked out of the casino with a cool 800 Canadian dollars. So we were off and running.
The next day we were lucky enough to sleep in as the six matches started in the early afternoon. We worked alongside a crew from the PGA TOUR all week. We had a long list of pictures we needed for our clients as well as the needs off our partners at the PGA Tour. They were making a photo album for the players, wives and caddies. Their website pgatour.com was also using quite a lot of images all week long. The weather was a bit iffy, but we had a solid first day and the USA team got off to a nice start.
The next day there was a bit of a weather delay with strong rains. We headed out that afternoon and saw the USA team take a controlling lead in the matches. We also saw one of the most bizarre and unique moments in golf history. I was set to follow the last two matches on the golf course as the others were with Tiger, Phil and Weir. I was on what seemed to be two dud matches, the last was two South Africans playing Woody Austin and David Toms.
I was walking up the 15th hole when I heard a massive roar from the reachable par 4, 14th. I decided to walk back to the 14th green not only to see what the roar was about but to have a few more words with the very impressive wife of Trevor Immelman. You see, in this event as with the Ryder Cup, the players wives get all dolled up and walk together watching their husbands battle it out. I told a wife earlier in the week the other battle for the week was to see which wife could out pace the others with designer eyewear. There must have been 50k in Gucci, Bulgari and Prada frames inside the ropes at Royal Montreal.
Well, the roar came when Rory Sabbatini drove the green and gave himself a chance for eagle with a 20 foot putt. I waited in his line and was chatting with a golf writer when he informed me it looked like Woody Austin had planned to attempt to hit a shot from the waters edge. Upon hearing this, I ran around the green to find
a few other photographers waiting for the result. Well, as anyone with a television can attest, Woody hit the shot and fell face first into the lake. I shot at 500 4, 1000 ISO and for the first time in my career, filled the buffer of my digital camera. The four of us that shot the sequence just stood in silence, knowing what we just shot was rare, cool and urgent.
Needless to say, all four photographers ran up the tenth fairway to file. Streeter Lecka made a simple plea over the radio, please tell me one of you guys just shot that. I was unaware that the shot was played on big screens all over the course with players stopping to watch. I grinned as I told him I was all over it. Later that night at the sports bar, the highlight ran over a dozen times in 2 hours.
Saturday morning and two sets of matches have us ready for a long day. The weather has improved greatly we are ready to make some nice frames with the turning leaves. The photographers that have the water sequence are looking all over the internet to see usage. Tim Clary for AFP has Woody under the water and that had run quite a bit in the Canadian papers. David Cannon and I work up an additional set of pictures and send them into our picture desk for future use. We also send a set of raw files via FTP to Sports Illustrated in New York. Most of the fans and media are talking about how amazing the 14th hole experience was.
Woody went on the birdie a few holes after he fell in the water, which would solidify his stamp on the event. Here is a player in his forties, who played his way on this team with a great finish at the PGA Champs and he out shadowed Tiger, Phil and the other 21 players in a span of 6 minutes. All day long fans shower him with comments and he loves it all the way around the afternoon match. He birdies 17 and his partner Phil Mickelson birdies 18 to grab a half and make the Sunday matches a mere formality as our team needs to win just 3 points from 12 matches to retain the cup.
The final day singles sees the matchup nearly everyone wants. Match three is Tiger v Weir and the fans are out large to support Weir. Streeter starts with this match, Sam is on the first tee shooting all the wives dressed in Montreal Canadian hockey jerseys, David follows his mate Ernie Els and I have the duty of working all 12 matches on the third green and fourth tee to insure we have a bit of all of the matches.
We need to make sure we have loads of the Woods/Weir match while being on the green where that third point is secured for the USA team. About 3 hours into the match we start doing math to predict where to be and who win get that point. It looks like Woods is going down to Weir after a slow start. We hear roars from that match all day long. It looks like the winning point will come from David Toms or Stewart Cink. I head from the third green and park myself on the 14th tee.
This hole has great trees behind it and I listen to the radio to hear what I am missing with the Woods/Weir game. I shoot a few groups on the tee and see my buddy Woody walk to the tee. The players have a big wait on the tee and Woody sits on a cooler and waits to play. I walk up and tell him how solid a year he has had and to enjoy his trip to Maui he earned with a win this year.
I grab a bottle of water and get back to my cameras. After he tees off, his caddie Brent strolls by and tells me to get to the green and be ready. I am listening to my radio and half take in what he says. I start to the green and my NBC buddy rolls by in a cart and tells me to get myself to the green STAT.
Now I put it all together and realize Woody has something up his sleeve. I see a few snappers on the green and let them know to get ready. In the fairway, Woody hits a shot then stops and takes a dive mask out of his golf bag. He walks slowly to the green and the crowd loves it. I blast away and get a few nice frames.
Now we still have to find that match that gets the 3rd point. I let two games go by and then it looks like the Cink match is it. David come running from the 16th and meets me at the 14th green. Cink wins and it is over, he makes NO picture whatsoever. At this point, Jack Nicklaus and a few other USA players are on the scene and we make some pics of Jack hugging Cink.
I show Cink and Nicklaus the Woody mask pics on the back of my camera and they laugh. I also needle Cink about how well we play in this event and how we need to work on our Ryder Cup efforts in the future. Most of the others are with the Woods/Weir match so it is pretty mellow here with smiles everywhere. Woods loses to Weir in a bit of a surprise, but for the fans that have been great all week, it is a nice reward. All that is left is the closing ceremony and we off all off for the next gig. Wow, that 14th green was good to me. The next morning I see Woody’s caddie on my plane and promise to load him up with pics.