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Best view of the Tiger? Join the People’s Liberation Army

November 10, 2009

PLA soldiers watch Tiger Woods of the U.S. as he plays on the green of the fourth hole during the final round of the 2009 HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai

The huge galleries following the final round match-up between Tiger Woods (“Laohu” to the locals) and Phil Mickelson at the WGC-HSBC Champions last Sunday made life uncomfortable for player and spectator alike on a humid day in Shanghai.

China’s wealthiest had paid up to 3,500 yuan ($513) for their tickets but the best view, on the fourth green at least, went to the soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) barracks on the other side of the canal which runs alongside the hole.

As of 2007, a private in the PLA earned just 1,800 yuan ($264) a year but these guys got a close up of one of the key moments of the day, when Woods plunged his drive into the water and started a downturn in fortunes that ended his attempt to win a first title at the Sheshan International Golf Club.

Mickelson, who missed a putt of less than two feet to bogey the hole, subsequently recovered his nerve and went on to win the tournament for a second time, despite a late charge from Ernie Els.

The snap-happy followers of the leading group were a talking point all day and Woods exploded when a media photographer took pictures during the downswing of his drive at the sixth tee, which ended up in a bunker.

“Can’t I even get a swing off?,” he shouted. “Jesus Christ!”

Afterwards, though, he made no mention of the disruptions that had clearly upset him all week, preferring to blame his own shortcomings for his final round of par 72.

Mickelson of the U.S. takes a shot during the final round of the 2009 HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai

Picture of Tiger Woods and the PLA soldiers by REUTERS/Nir Elias and Phil Mickelson and the PLA soldiers by REUTERS/Aly Song.

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