CEOs may be used to pressure, but when they golf, those watching are "normally your wife and somebody else," Lawless says. When you play with Woods? "There are 10,000 lining the first tee."
That creates the fear of pulling a "Gerald Ford," an errant drive into the crowd and named for the former president. Craig Miller, CEO of Ruth's Chris Steak House, played with Woods in a pro-am at the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte in 2005, two weeks after Woods had won the Masters for the fourth time. Miller says one of his tee shots wiped out the left side of the gallery but he recovered nicely.
"Adrenaline was going through my body at 200 miles an hour," says Murphy, whose knees were shaking on the first tee. On the par-3 third hole, he landed 10 yards over the green using the same 8-iron that put him 4 feet short of the pin during his practice round.
Nerves momentarily got the best of Noddle, who says he must have teed his ball up a little ahead of the markers on the first hole. Woods got the crowd laughing when he came in and moved the markers up to make Noddle legal.
CEOs say they are in awe of Woods, and not just because he is the best. They like that he prefers tee times at daybreak and that he takes his golf regimen to other hobbies. Woods is into free diving and can hold his breath for minutes at a time while plunging up to 100 feet.
In interviews, Woods has said he wakes up every day knowing he can be a better husband, father and person, as well as a better golfer. That's a mantra that strikes a chord with high achievers.
"He has the discipline around what matters," Novak says.