Earlier this week at the Champions Challenge, Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams said what most of us think about every time we go golfing.

"I'm nervous," he said. "I'm worried about that first tee shot."

For Williams, he'd rather be shooting a couple of free throws in the final seconds of a close game than teeing off on the first hole at Thanksgiving Point, even if there's about 19,000 fewer people watching.

It's something that afflicts all golfers, even greats such as Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus.

Call it First-Tee-itis.

Unless you're a super-confident golfer or perhaps someone who couldn't care less about how you play on the golf course, you probably suffer from this malady.

It can be so bad that you get sweaty palms long before you get to the golf course. Perhaps you're one who lays in bed thinking about your Saturday morning round ... and it's only Tuesday.

What if I pop it up 50 yards? What if I slice it out of bounds? What if I hit a grounder? Will everyone laugh at me? What if I don't even make contact?

I saw the latter happen to a famous local athlete a few years back at a Utah Open pro-am. A guy who had played another sport in front of millions over his career, couldn't make contact on his first tee shot of the day.

Over the years, I've experienced the whole range of first tee shots, well, except for the whiff.

There have also been those occasions where I've warmed up on the range and gotten to the first tee only to top one into the weeds and feel mortified the rest of the day, no matter how well I played after that.

I can also remember playing in a pro-am at the old Shootout at the Jeremy Ranch when large legions of fans lined the fairways, arriving late, rushing to the tee and promptly striping one down the middle.

It's comforting to hear that even the best golfers suffer from First-Tee-itis.

"Every pro is nervous on the first tee," Miller said. "The first tee is not usually a good shot for most people. People tighten up, so their first tee shot almost always goes right, even the pros. What I do before I tee off is take two clubs out and swing them 20 times. Probably the most nervous part of the round is the first hole."

Nicklaus says he never loses any sleep over his first shot of the day and says the key is thinking positive, rather than negative.

"I don't know if it's being nervous or that you just want to get started properly and you're nervous that you're not going to," he said. "You've got to have a positive attitude, and say 'I want to hit a good one,' instead of 'Gee, I don't want to hit a bad one.' There's a big difference."

So according to the greatest golfer of all time, all we need to do is bring a positive attitude to the first tee.

Just forget about all those pop-ups, grounders and whiffs and we'll be just fine.


E-mail: sor@desnews.com