It takes computer crew to capture Tiger Woods

ORLANDO, Florida, AP

Tiger Woods gripped his driver, took a quick glance down the fairway then looked down at the ball, his face a mask of fierce concentration. He brought the club back above his shoulder, coiling his body to deliver yet another majestic drive. As he reached the top of his backswing, Woods suddenly stopped and backed away from the ball. Someone with a clicking camera had ruined his concentration. “Hey! Watch it!” Woods shouted, pointing out the offender. “Have some respect for the game!” But there was no cameraman. No fairway or ball, either. There was only Woods, wearing a skintight black jumpsuit with reflective dots, holding a driver on one of Universal Studios’ cavernous soundstages. Woods was playing a role in a video game for EA Sports,”Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002.” Getting angry was only part of the afternoon’s shooting. Woods would also walk, wave, take off his gloves, drop his club in disgust after a bad shot and give his famous fist-pump after sinking a key putt. Put the cyber-Woods on a virtual course mirroring one that actually exists, then add lifelike physics, and it’s easy to understand EA Sports’ motto:”If it’s in the (real) game, it’s in the (video) game.” “My first recollection about playing golf games as a kid was, if you didn’t shoot about 20-, 28-under par, it was a bad day,” Woods said days after his victory at The Masters. “But now, this is pretty real. It’s almost like how it is on the golf course.” The game captures details so well that Woods could tell his swing has changed since he last performed for the company two years ago — during which time he’s won five major championships, including four straight. “Tiger looked at last year’s product and said, ‘Are you guys planning on capturing me again, because I’ve got a new swing,”‘ said David DeMartini, the company’s executive producer for golf games. “That was something he noticed and wanted to be different. Tiger is a big game player, and we’re very much trying to incorporate his input into the game design.” Just as Woods towers over the golf world, Redwood City, California-based EA Sports dominates the video golf game market for both personal computers and home consoles. According to NPD Group, a marketing information firm in Reston, Virginia, EA Sports’ “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2001” made up 44 percent of the golf games sold for personal computers last year and 41 percent of such games on home consoles. Both figures topped the field. “It’s really neat to be able to work with EA Sports. It’s such a great company,” Woods said. “They allow you to be a part of it and have input. There’s great interaction between EA and myself, talking about what we want to do in the game and try to make it happen.” On this day, Woods’ job was to hit and hit and hit plastic golf balls into a mesh cage using a variety of clubs. Although the process took three hours, it was less exhausting than tedious. While Woods performed, special cameras tracked his movements through the reflective spheres on his body and club, feeding the data to a bank of computers. Later, game designers will add Woods’ body to the stick-figure frame seen on the technicians’ screens. The same process will be done with the courses featured on “Tiger’s Dream 18,” which is scheduled for release early next year.