Tiger Woods cheers on Kobe Bryant during a LA Lakers game.
Tiger Woods cheers on Kobe Bryant during a LA Lakers game. Image Credit: Reuters

Paris: The conversation quickly turned away from golf after the final putt at the weekend.

Rankings leader Brooks Koepka took a weekend off and the two men chasing him, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm closed the gap with top three finished in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

But the atmosphere was dominated by the news of the death of NBA star Kobe Bryant, 140 miles up the California coast in Calabasas.

Tiger Woods was on the course and in contention when news began to spread that his former training partner had died — but caddie Joey LaCava deliberately kept the news from him.

Bryant’s career ran parallel with the Lakers great and they used to work out together.

“I was trying to win the golf tournament,” Woods said immediately after the round. “Joey realised that I was locked in on that and didn’t want to distract me.”

“People were yelling, ‘Do it for Mamba.’ Now I understand,” Woods said. “It’s unbelievable, the reality that he’s no longer here,”

Woods and Bryant used to train together when they were neighbours.

“We really connected on the mental side: the prep how much it takes to be prepared.”

Woods, who is 44, turned professional in August 1996. Bryant, who was 41, was drafted June that year in by the Charlotte and made his NBA debut in November.

“He came in the league and I turned pro more or less the same time. We had our 20-year run together.”