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Upon close-up view of Tiger, Willis labels Woods PGA's "Elvis'

Garrett Willis and Tiger Woods are in two different worlds when it comes to golf slumps.

While Woods — who many experts think is the best golfer of all-time — is looking to end a long winless slump by capturing this weekend’s U.S. Open, PGA tour pro Willis, a former Farragut High School star, is just looking to improve his game after recent tournament struggles.

Meanwhile, this 1992 FHS graduate said the Tiger Woods mystique is still very much alive and well despite the fact that Woods has won only one PGA Tour event in 2004 and hasn’t won a major championship since the 2002 U.S. Open.

However, “the guy is a bit intimidating, he’s a rock star, he’s like Elvis,” Willis said of Woods during Willis’ play in the 2004 Knoxville Open at Fox Den Country Club in early June.

“The guy’s got a lot of talent, but there’s just as many out there that have just as much talent. But the guy is so mentally superior, that’s the big difference. A majority of the people have the same physical capabilities as he does. But they just don’t have the mental game that he does. He’s superior mentally to anybody else out there, from my experience, that is.”

Willis got an early taste of Tiger’s game when the former Admiral star and East Tennessee State University All-American was paired with Tiger, a Stanford All-American, during the 1996 NCAA Golf Championship tournament.

“It was a format where … the guys from the east play two guys from the west, it wasn’t a head-to-head battle,” Willis said. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. Actually I looked forward to the opportunity of playing with him in that match. He ended up going birdie, eagle, par in the last three holes to stiff us by one shot. That’s what he’s known for doing.”

As for his contact with the golfing legend since entering the PGA Tour in 2001, “I’ve gotten to know him (Tiger) better in the last three years than I did in college because I’ve seen him more out on the tour,” Willis said. “Me being from East Tennessee and him being from Stanford, we really didn’t play that much together (in college) except in some of the All-American bowls and in the (NCAA) finals.

“As far as his mannerisms, he’s a pretty decent guy,” Willis added. “Keeps to himself. Hard-working.”


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