Saturday 24 September 2016

Another year of nothing as Tiger Woods' star fades into wilderness

Dermot Gilleece

Published 13/08/2015 | 21:37

Tiger Woods reacts to his putt on the 18th green during the first round of the 2015 PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods reacts to his putt on the 18th green during the first round of the 2015 PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when, even with four or five victories, a tournament season for Tiger Woods was considered a failure unless he had won a Major.

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Now, after an opening 75 in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits today, he is looking at a season of nothing. No Major, no tournament win. Nothing but heartache.

In nine tournaments on the PGA Tour this year, Woods’ record has been – cut, withdrawn, T17, T69, 71st, cut, T32, cut, T18th.  Seems like another age since he would make an annual, July visit to Waterville, play the links courses in the Kerry area and then head across the Irish Sea with a healthy prospect of picking up the Open Championship.

And with July taken care of,  his sights would then turn to the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone for another likely victory before completing his Major season with the PGA Championship.

“I can still do things overseas,” he said today. Indeed he can, but the time is long gone when he can command serious largesse from tournament organisers desperate for his services. One such occasion which remains in the memory was the Deutsche Bank Championship of 2001 at St Leon Rot in Heidelberg.

That was when, on the Saturday of the tournament, a slim, sharp figure in sunshades gave instructions to the television crews which were brief and explicit. "Tiger will give three interviews," said his manager, Mark Steinberg. "You have two questions each. Nobody asks a third question or he walks."

Woods had just completed a third-round 63 – a whopping 12 strokes lower than today’s effort. When the centre of attention descended the eight steps from the elevated score-recorder's area like a major, showbusiness personality, there were further instructions from Woods's manager.  "OK, this is the order: Sky, German, you (to Ken Brown, representing the US Golf Channel)."

It was a situation in which the interviewer knew he had to pick his questions carefully.  Ask something like "Well, Tiger you must be pleased with that round", and question number one could deliver a brief "Yes" in reply.  These were practised operators.  The opening question was: "Well Tiger, tell us how the round developed for you."  No monosyballic answer to that.

Brown, who was the last of the interviewers, shared his bemusement.  "It's an amazing situation," said the former British Ryder Cup player.  "As Tiger turned to be interviewed by me, he had this glazed look in his eyes as if his mind was a million miles away," he said.  "Once I started asking him questions, however, I had his complete attention.  But when I had finished, the glazed look came back and he turned automatically as if expecting another interview.  Amazing."

Still, he conceded: "Unfortunately, it has to be this way.  The demands on Tiger are such that he would never get to the locker-room if all of our requirements were to be satisfied."

The German sponsors have loved every moment of the visit, not least a pro-am appearance with Franz Beckenbauer and Boris Becker. And afterwards, remarked Hanns Michael Holz of Deutsche Bank remarked: "Tiger doesn't make any plans that far in advance, but we will certainly be negotiating to have him back here next year; absolutely right,"

Changed times?  And how!

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