Matt Damon, star of "The Legend of Bagger Vance," looked as if he might whip Tiger Woods in the Masters Gold tourney this week.
Damon's smooth, grooved swing convinced golfers the world over that this actor would be a whiz on the PGA tour.
But movies are make-believe, paying actors millions to convince audiences they are something they aren't.
"Bagger Vance," released in DVD this month, demonstrates how realistic make-believe can be as Damon comes off like a professional.
He brings to life Rannulph Junuh, a real-life post World War I Georgia golfer. Will Smith plays his mystical caddy in the title role, guiding Junuh's comeback.
How did Damon, 32, play Junuh without looking like a klutz?
It's easy for actors to play auto racers, football stars and other jocks. They are filmed in close-ups and step aside for doubles in action scenes.
But director Robert Redford was opposed to using camera tricks and doubles for the key golfing footage.
Damon had to look like a champion, not an actor pretending to be one of the great golfers of the time.
Enter Tim Moss, head teaching professional at Belfair, a top country club pro on the famed Hilton Head, S.C., golfing scene.
A friendly party, Moss takes pride in teaching tyros and duffers to play the game competitively.
Redford and the producers chose him to make their star a believable golfer -- in less than a month!
"Redford was going to play Junuh at first, and Morgan Freeman was going to play Bagger," Moss said the other day. "But they couldn't get the timing right.
"When they brought Damon to me he had never played before. Never touched a golf club.
"The producers told me my number one priority was to make Matt a believable player because the other guys in the cast were pretty good golfers.
"So Matt and I worked five hours a day, six days a week for about three-and-a-half or four weeks before they shot one scene.
"Matt was renting a house in Savannah and drove to Hilton Head, 45 miles away, every day. A driver dropped him off every morning at 10 a.m. and picked up at 3 p.m. It was like going to school.
"I gave him two choices. 'You could be a cosmetic player and the high-tech boys could put a golf ball on the tee with computer generated graphics or I could teach you to play like anyone else.'
"He looked at me and said, 'I want to be good enough to beat my dad.' That convinced me.
"We found a set of ancient hickory-shafted clubs, old Tom Stewarts they actually got from St. Andrews in Scotland. They were in remarkable condition, probably made in the 1920s.
"We used them in the picture as well as some new soft golf balls and Junior Extremes because we couldn't use modern golf balls; they would have split the heads.
"We started putting and chipping and graduated to some pitching swings with a set of modern clubs."
Moss chuckled and said, "You know all golfers are a little crazy. A friend told me 95 percent of all people in the Columbia (S.C.) state mental hospital have played golf at one time or another.
"Will Smith is a golf addict. But he had only one swing in the movie. He's a good golfer who shoots in the 80s."
Moss said he was a doubter about Tiger Woods when he first became prominent, but has changed his mind.
"He's so good physically and mentally more on target than 95 percent of the other guys out there," Moss said. He's the best player in the world now, and maybe the best ever.
"Equipment is so different now it's difficult to make comparisons with the old-timers.
"The most difficult thing with Matt was to focus on control and not swing too hard trying to kill the ball.
"Years ago I wasn't playing too well in a tournament and an old caddy asked me, 'Is that ball alive?'
"I said, 'No, it isn't.'
"And he replied, 'Then why are you trying to kill it?'
"Matt had the same problem, but once he got in the groove and had some success it began to register.
"I told him, 'They say play golf. They don't say, 'work golf.' If you're trying too hard to hit the ball rather than swinging through it, you're not playing golf."
"After about 26 days Matt became a convincing player. I had a great time. Matt's dad and uncle visited us and I played with them. It was the first day Matt ever played 18 holes. Matt broke 100, shooting 97. And since then he's broken 90. Now he's starting to play in some celebrity tournaments, and looking forward to beating his dad."