By Frank Pingue
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Tiger Woods has a benign stalker who is tracking the former world number one's every move.
Hiding in plain sight at Augusta National for this week's Masters is the anonymous operator of the Golf Channel-backed Twitter account that is dedicated to all things Tiger.
The mysterious man behind the @GCTigerTracker Twitter handle has used a mix of insightful news, quick-witted humor and bravado to generate over 215,000 followers who have no idea who he is and likely never will.
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"It's fun that more than 200,000 people follow this account and have no clue who is tapping out tweets," Tiger Tracker told Reuters in an email interview arranged through a Golf Channel intermediary that protected his identity.
Tiger Tracker said he was hired to create a Twitter account devoted to the 14-times major champion in 2012 after blindly sending a resume to Golf Channel and they "never regretted it."
Since then, Tiger Tracker said he had attended each of the 60-plus tournaments that Woods has played, from Australia to Abu Dhabi to California. He has sent over 28,000 tweets and never let anyone else man the Twitter account.
"My baby. Forever and always," said Tiger Tracker.
The man behind the Twitter account thoroughly enjoys the guessing game about his identity and said he is approached all the time by people asking if he is indeed Tiger Tracker.
He even said some of Golf Channel's on-air analysts -- including former pro golfers Notah Begay, Brandel Chamblee and Frank Nobilo -- are also approached by curious onlookers who think they are behind the account.
Tiger Tracker showed just how much fun he is having staying anonymous when three weeks ago he teased his followers by saying he would be doing his first on-camera interview later that day on Golf Channel's Morning Drive program.
When the big moment arrived, Tiger Tracker's face was blacked out and voice distorted for the entire three-minute segment as if he were in a witness protection program.
He also enjoys a little bit of self-deprecating humor.
After Woods held his pre-Masters news conference this week, during which he reflected on him and Phil Mickelson being at the latter stages of their careers, Tiger Tracker tweeted: "I hate the 'end of our careers' comment. I know it's true, but damn, I don't have any other redeemable skills."
'HE'S MY MEAL TICKET'
Tiger Tracker said the job pays "enough to put food on the table and beverages in my belly" and that the hardest part is an unrelenting pressure to be awesome, which he adds "isn't that challenging when it comes so easily."
He said the best part of being Tiger Tracker was having a job many would do for free and that he never got tired of reporting solely on the greatest golfer of his generation.
"He's my meal ticket, and I still get to watch the best to ever do it. Even if sometimes that means I have to criticize his play (see: my tweets from 2014-17)," wrote Tiger Tracker.
Since he never hides his fondness for Woods, Tiger Tracker is admittedly filled with excitement as the 79-times winner on the PGA Tour sets out on Thursday in search of a fifth Masters title pain-free after spending years dealing with a bad back.
"Tiger Woods has a legitimate chance to win the Masters. In 2018. At 42 years old. After all he's been through. This is way better than that four-wheel motorcycle I once got for Christmas as a child," said Tiger Tracker.
But this week may prove to be a unique challenge for Tiger Tracker given Augusta National's strict policy on mobile phones.
"I've been at every single event Tiger has played since my inception. The Masters is my only trouble spot," said Tiger Tracker. "Augusta doesn't allow phones on the course, so I'm inside the press center tweeting as much as I can from all of the available resources."
Tiger Woods does not follow the Twitter account that tracks his every move but he may well know the man behind the scenes.
"Trust me, he knows," said Tiger Tracker.
While Woods has not won a major since 2008 and is currently ranked 103rd in the world, Tiger Tracker was crystal clear when asked if another golfer might warrant a similar "Tracker" account, simply replying: "Let me know when they get 14 majors."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Ken Ferris)