“There’s plenty of time,” Woods said to a question about his efforts to prepare for the Open. . . . I am playing more. I’m finally healthy enough to do it. My back is good enough to do it, so yeah, I’m fully committed to playing more golf all this summer.”
The camera shot of Tiger Woods on the satellite link-up from his corporate headquarters in Florida was a tight one — all receding hairline and open collar and weary eyes. The assembled reporters and tournament officials gathered at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., for the Quicken Loans National media day could make out little about the room 1,000 miles away where Woods sat, though everyone already knew one thing: There was an enormous elephant in it.
Soon enough, after the greetings, the opening remarks, the sponsor’s thank-yous and Woods’s own toothy-smiled, satellite-beamed hello, it revealed itself.
By late Monday morning, Woods was still barely 24 hours removed from wrapping up the worst tournament performance of his professional career, a last-place, 14-over-par showing at the Memorial, low-lighted by a career-worst 85 on Saturday and a lonely, dew-sweeper trip around the course Sunday morning as a last-place single.
“I look at it this way: It’s all about getting reps,” Woods said, choosing morbid humor over introspection. “I got a lot of reps this weekend.”
It was certainly not the story line Woods was hoping to put forth on the media day for his D.C.-area tournament, which this year, its ninth, moves to a new venue, RTJ Golf Club, previously the host of four President Cup matches (the tournament will move back to Congressional Country Club in 2016, 2018 and 2020 and to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in 2017), as well as a new date, July 30-Aug. 2, on the PGA Tour calendar.
But so it goes with Woods, now ranked 181st in the world as he approaches his 40th birthday in December. If it’s not one unwelcome news story — a back injury, knee surgery, a tabloid scandal, “glutes” that mysteriously “shut off” — it’s another. Now, the story is the crisis in his golf game; his five tournament appearances this year have produced a missed cut in Phoenix, a back-related withdrawal at Torrey Pines, a surprising tie for 17th at the Masters, a tie for 69th at the Players Championship and this past weekend’s gruesome bottoming-out in Ohio.
“I’ve had times like this in my life where I’ve gone through these periods, but you just have to fight through it,” said Woods, who has won 14 majors. “I’m committed to what I’m doing [with swing coach Chris Como], and I’m committed to the [swing] changes, and once I start to snowball and start getting things more solidified, then that’s when things will start coming together.”
On Monday, as much as Woods and the tournament officials tried to steer the attention toward the positive aspects of the National — its outreach efforts on behalf of military veterans and the kids served by the Tiger Woods Foundation, its unveiling of a new mascot (a cuddly Tiger named “T-Dub”) and the recent commitment of fan favorite Rickie Fowler (a Quicken Loans endorsee) to play in the tournament — the timing simply worked against them.
Other than a quick greenside media scrum Sunday following his final round of the Memorial, he had not been pressed about the awful state of his game. (He left the course without speaking to reporters after Saturday’s 85.) And with the U.S. Open looming next week at Chambers Bay golf course in University Place, Wash. — a mysterious, gargantuan track that has already inspired predictions of doom for all who dare to set foot on it — Woods’s collapse is the biggest story in the sport.
“There’s plenty of time,” Woods said to a question about his efforts to prepare for the Open. “I needed tournament golf, and it was nice to have the Memorial in there and to be able to play a golf course that’s that difficult. . . . I am playing more. I’m finally healthy enough to do it. My back is good enough to do it, so yeah, I’m fully committed to playing more golf all this summer.”
This defiant stance in the face of one professional crisis after another has been Woods’s strategy throughout his major-title drought, which extends back to June 2008. Time isn’t running out; there is plenty of time. His golf game isn’t a wreck; he is just working out some swing changes. His body isn’t breaking down; he just needs to play fewer tournaments, or maybe he just needs to play more.
On Monday, he gave little in the way of specifics about the horrors of the weekend. He brought up only one shot from the whole week — his tee shot on the 10th hole Sunday, which he described with visible pride as “an absolute seed” — and related some of the encouragement he got from his caddie, Joe LaCava, who told him, “Man, take it easy on yourself. You haven’t played that much golf. . . . Just take it easy. It’ll come around.”
“I hate to say it when he’s right,” Woods concluded, flashing another big smile. “. . . But he’s right.”
Whether Woods and his caddie are right or not, that all will be fine in time, it is all likely to be revealed in the coming months, at Chambers Bay, at St. Andrews, at Whistling Straits, here at RTJ and elsewhere — in the last summer of his 30s, in arguably as critical a stretch of golf as he has ever faced. Source: The Washington Post