We got a sneak preview of another of Tiger Woods’ stumbles (I refuse to refer to them as steps) towards winning back golf fans with the revelation that he’ll be speaking with the media on Monday, April 5th at Augusta.
And, working toward that day, Woods did one-on-one interviews with TGC’s Kelly Tilghman and ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. Here’s the one with Tilghman.
You’ll notice something striking about Woods’ answers and demeanour. His trademark arrogant confidence seemed to have vanished. I have seen Tiger speak on television and in person. Whatever question he answers. Whatever opinion he gives, it always seemed to have an edge to it. That edge has disappeared.
What I wonder is, how will that lack of arrogance affect his game? Tiger is not alone in the golf world in delivering curt responses. Jack Nicklaus is a master at it. What it boils down to is that Jack could never not let his feelings show if the interviewer asked something that Jack thought inappropriate. I have seen him cut guys in half with an answer. Jack always seems to have something else to do. Some better place to be.
About twenty-five years ago, in Calgary, I watched Jack cut a local pro a new a–hole because the pro, who was caddying for Jack, couldn’t give Jack an exact yardage to the pin. This was during a made-for-TV event against Canada’s Jim Nelford (before Nelford’s horrific arm injury). It was on a course so brand-new, Bearspaw, that they hadn’t installed yardage markers yet. Jack didn’t care. He wanted the exact number. When the pro used the word “about” in his reply, Jack dressed him down in front of about 300 people – and our television camera. Not impressive…but it’s what made Jack Jack.
And former Canadian touring professional Dave Barr, who tied for 2nd at the 1985 U.S. Open won by Andy North at Oakland Hills, was a complete knob when he was playing. Any little noise or fidget by a spectator could set him off. Then, on Hilton Head in 1993, we had an opportunity to interview Barr on the practice tee. He was a completely different person. I don’t mean somewhat different. I mean completely different. As nice and affable as you can be.
Point is, when they’re on the course, these guys are in their office. It’s like they’ve left the door open, so we can watch, but they’re still trying to work and earn their salary.
Will Woods, without the edge, be the same player? He will not. He can’t be. It will take time for him to find his level again. But I can’t see him ever again having that cocky arrogance he once proudly displayed. And that will hurt his golf game.