Bob Smiley is a television writer moonlighting in the world of golf literature, producing an entertaining new book on his pursuit to watch every hole Tiger Woods played in 2008.
Released today by HarperCollins, Follow The Roar is a fresh and decidedly novel approach to the genre of golf books where an author takes us inside the ropes for a year. Smiley was mostly outside the ropes and media centers (explaining his clear eyes and thin physique), yet he captures so many entertaining moments in Tiger's epic half-season.
The impressively produced book features end sheets with all of Bob's tickets along with a lavish photo insert that includes several indelible images taken by some of the best in the business.
GEOFF: The idea for Follow The Roar really started with an email from an ESPN.com reader?
BOB: It really did. During the 2nd round of last year's Target (now Chevron) World Challenge, I decided to dive into Tiger's mob for the day and write about the experience. I'd seen Tiger play at Riviera a couple times, but never from start to finish. I stuck with him from the second he stepped out of his beige Buick Enclave until he signed his card for a tournament-record 62. The piece triggered a wave of response from golf fans who had braved crowds to see Tiger and loved reliving the experience or those who had never seen him in person and wished they'd been there. Buried in the emails was a woman who asked me whether I would be following Tiger the whole year. It was a ridiculous idea. Until I realized it was a brilliant idea.
GEOFF: And when did the book deal come into play?
BOB: Twenty-four hours before Tiger began his season. I was up early and starting to pack for the trip to the Buick Invitational in January when the news came through that HarperCollins had made an offer on my book proposal to help me do this. I would have gone to San Diego with or without a deal and chronicled the tournament. But the following week Tiger would be in Dubai, and that would have been a little tough without some outside help.
GEOFF: An accountant friend had you not making it past July without going broke. I take it you were the one person grateful for Tiger's knee needing major surgery? Or would you rather have continued on?
BOB: Well my mom thought my airfare budget was way off since, in her mind, Tiger would be letting me travel with him for free on his jet by the end of the year. But no, I would always have loved to have seen more. I'd love to know how Tiger would have navigated the wind and rain during the first two rounds of the British Open. That said, he went out with such a finish at the U.S. Open that it's hard to imagine that even he could top it.
GEOFF: In most instances you were covering him without the aid of a press credential?
BOB: The only press pass I ever received was in Dubai of all places. And only then because I was surfing around the tournament's website, found an online application for a credential and hit send. But I'm not a reporter by anyone's definition. From the beginning, Follow The Roar was always intended to be an everyman's adventure with Tiger and his world. I wanted every reader to start pick up the book and think, "this could be me."
GEOFF: Do you think it made your quest more uniquely informed because you were viewing him outside the ropes and without the pleasure of free food accompanied by depressing lunch room discussions about the demise of newspapers?
BOB: Inside the ropes or out, most reporters aren't walking 18 holes with any one group. It's just not a good use of their time. What that meant for me was there were shots Tiger hit and things he said throughout the season that I know no other writer witnessed or wrote about but I. Being on the outside also meant being free from any journalistic pressure to be impartial and civil. My feelings about Tiger over the course of the year ran the gamut from disdain to adoration and back again.
GEOFF: Was there a favorite character you encountered along the way?
BOB: In Tucson, I had an extra ticket and put it on Craigslist for free, the one rule being that whoever took it had to follow Tiger and Tiger only with me for the day. No complaining, no long beer lines, no bathroom breaks. It ended up going to a tough Tucson taxi driver who gave me a free ride to the tourney and broke the ice by showing me the gun he had hidden away in his glove compartment.
GEOFF: Any brushes with Stevie?
BOB: Nothing a little facial constructive surgery didn't heal.
GEOFF: Have you sent a copy to Tiger?
BOB: The supremely naive part of me would like to believe that Tiger will bounce out of bed one morning this week, drive to the bookstore and buy it. The realistic part of me knows that Tiger Woods is so powerful that he probably saw a finished copy before I did.
GEOFF: Anything you'd like to ask the big guy?
BOB: Plenty. But my guess is that given the opportunity to spend time with the greatest golfer ever, our conversation would quickly devolve into me making swings with an imaginary club and asking him what in the world I'm doing wrong.