Tour pro recalls how Tiger intimidated him without saying a word
Longtime Tour pro Arron Oberholser and Tiger Woods have a long history of competition against each other. Oberholser attended San Jose State, just 20 minutes away from Woods’ alma mater at Stanford, and though Oberholser was one year ahead of Woods in school, the two played against each other a number of times before going pro. In fact, in 1996, Oberholser and Woods each had six collegiate titles to their names.
Oberholser appeared on this week’s episode of Subpar, and told hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz that even back then he was aware of Woods’ growing fame, and that Woods maintained the same impenetrable aura then as he does now, nearly 25 years later.
Oberholser detailed one particularly memorable interaction with Woods, when the two were paired together in the final round of USC’s invitational — the first time Oberholser could remember being on the receiving end of the now-famous ‘Tiger stare.’
“We step on to the 1st tee at North Ranch, and that was the first time that I remember getting the blank stare,” Oberholser said. “And we all know the blank stare if you’ve ever played with Tiger and you’ve come up against him when everything’s on the line. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a college tournament or you’re playing him in tiddlywinks. He wants to beat you.
“So I remember going to shake his hand,” Oberholser continued. “He’s always the last on the tee, as we all know. And we’re waiting, ‘God, he’s going to miss his tee time.’ Here he comes. And he walks onto the tee, and he’s not looking at you. He’s looking through you as he’s shaking your hand like you’re not even there. And that, to me, was the first time I had really felt truly physically intimidated by another human being. And I had to re-gather myself really quickly and say, ‘OK, all right, I’ve got my business to take care of today. I want to win USC’s tournament.’
“Well, we do our thing. He ends up clipping me by a couple. I end up finishing third, he ends up winning the golf tournament. But I learned a lot that day, just playing with him.”
After listening to Oberholser’s story, Knost chimed in with his own “Tiger stare” experience.
“At the PGA at Bellerive two years ago, I was out there doing some TV for CBS and stuff, and they sent me down Sunday because Gary Woodland was playing well, and they’re like, see if you can go get some comments or anything like this,” Knost began. “So I’m standing right where the players come from the putting green to the range and Tiger walks by. And I’ve never played with Tiger, so I haven’t got to see that, but I was like, ‘Good luck, Tiger,’ and he just gave me a stare, and I’m like, that’s the stare that everyone talks about! And I go back to the compound and I go, ‘Y’all better get ready, ’cause this guy’s bringing it today.’ And he goes out and shoots 64, finishes second, but that stare is just legendary.”
For Oberholser, it was a moment he’s never forgotten.
“It’s burned into my memory,” he says. “Like a couple of the shots that he’s hit in college when I played with him. It’s like a deer in the headlights. It’s glazed over. It’s almost half-sociopathic, quite honestly, looking like he’s going to murder you. If Tiger hears this, he’s probably going, ‘Come on, man.’ No. It’s that bad. He means 100 percent complete business when he steps on that 1st tee with you. Especially final round, when he’s got a chance to win a golf tournament.”
Oberholser joined the PGA Tour in 2003 and claimed one career win, the 2006 AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He’s now an analyst for Golf Channel. You can watch his entire Subpar interview below.