When Tiger Woods was honored with a bronze bust outside the 10th green at the Phoenix Open on Saturday, he began his morning round of golf by making the longest hole of the event look easy by posting an eagle on the par-5 third hole.
He then matched that eagle with a birdie to go 2-under through his first 11 holes at TPC Scottsdale. He finished his opening round at 1-under.
In a ceremony celebrating Bryant's new statue, Woods moved his putter to the right of the green and stepped to the other side while making a downhill 12-foot putt.
"When you're at an event like this, it's hard to slow down. I love playing golf. I love playing here. I enjoy the fans. I enjoy what's going on," Woods said. "It's nice to be able to step to the side and have someone immortalize my life and my career and my contributions. And also with Kobe here today, the long lasting legacy that he's had, and my childhood idol."
Woods continued: "When he got done, he looked over and said, 'You made that putt.' I'm like, 'Yeah. Now I have to make a birdie.' "
Bryant echoed Woods' sentiments afterward.
"You know, he really said, 'Now I have to make a birdie.' And I said, 'You don't have to worry about that. I can make them.' He gets excited about it. You know, obviously he's one of the biggest stars in the world. To know that he knows that, the opportunity to make this effort, it means a lot to me," Bryant said.
Bryant, who won five consecutive NBA championships with the Lakers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, came out of retirement earlier this month to do one last season as the team's coach. But his departure is starting to take its toll on the team, which entered Saturday ranked last in the NBA in scoring.
Friday night's game at San Antonio didn't end until 2:23 a.m. local time, making Bryant's original visit to Arizona a bit premature. Bryant spoke briefly about the tough decision that he and the Lakers made to say goodbye to the great player who helped make the team a national brand. But Woods' eagle came at one of the most inopportune times for the golfing great.
"Tiger making that putt was something that showed me respect for his talents and where he's come from," Bryant said. "To see Tiger, with his Nike stuff, win his first tournament in a few years on the golf course, with his (four-iron) tee shot, being able to pick up his ball and throw his clubs and be able to celebrate with his wife and kids and his agent, I just thought that was a great moment for them and a great moment for our city and great moment for him.
"Again, it goes to show me the joy and the love that he has. Tiger's never forgotten where he came from. That's the reason that he has such an incredible personality and the longevity that he's had as a pro athlete and why he can go out at 40 years old and go right back in the game and win another World Golf Championship (event), which I did. And all of those things are because he played so hard, he invested so much time, and that's why I'm able to do the things that I do."
Woods, who's recovering from a fourth back surgery in his career, is in the fourth tournament since his return. He missed the cut at the Australian Open but came in second last week at Torrey Pines after tying for 10th in the Farmers Insurance Open. Woods closed out his opening round at the Phoenix Open on Saturday with a bogey-free round of 67.