Before Thursday, Branden Grace had never met, much less played with, Tiger Woods.
By Saturday afternoon, Grace had been paired with him three days in a row at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He's won twice.
The South African shot 4-under 66 on Day 3 at Firestone to get to 2 under par for the week. For the second consecutive day, Grace beat Woods by two shots. The 23-year-old has been grateful for the experience.
"I've played with him three days in a row has been unreal," he said. "I've learned a hell of a lot from playing with him. The way he plays shots, the way he handles himself and things like that has been great. He's there because he is the best in the world."
Woods was gracious in commending Grace for his round as the world No. 2 carded a Saturday 68.
"I thought I was playing pretty well through, I'll say, 11 holes, but I was getting killed by my playing partner," he said. "I thought I was playing well, but he was playing better."
Woods has shown a softer side this year with many of his playing partners, chatting it up with them, offering kudos and largely being courteous to his fellow players. Whatever stonewalling Woods did in the past seems long gone, said Grace.
"I've seen it now, and I think people really criticize him (are) wrong," he said. "He's one hell of a guy, and he's pretty much the nicest guy I've ever played with."
Idols, like Woods is for Grace, can often be a letdown. That hasn't been the case.
"It's nice to know that he's everything that I hoped he would be," he added. "He's been my idol and my role model since I started playing golf, so it's nice to put himself next to all those that I hoped it would be."
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