Sport Golf

Sunday 23 July 2017

Hollow demands look too much for Tiger

Tiger Woods ponders his options on the 18th fairway during the pro-am for the Quail Hollow Championship yesterday. Photo: AP
Tiger Woods ponders his options on the 18th fairway during the pro-am for the Quail Hollow Championship yesterday. Photo: AP

William S Callahan

HEAVEN knows, Tiger's trying! Like stopping on his way to the second tee at Quail Hollow to hand a small boy a signed golf ball and then pose for a picture with him.

The galleries in this beautifully manicured corner of Charlotte, North Carolina, were as welcoming and respectful of Woods as those at the Masters three weeks back, when he ended his five months exile from the game.

Sure, Woods was booed momentarily when, after 18 holes of what he'd described as "scratchy" golf in yesterday's pro-am, it appeared as if he mightn't sign autographs for fans crowding the final green.

Yet they were stifled when Tiger stopped, pulled out the newest weapon in his armoury, a Sharpie pen, and started scribbling.

As they did at Augusta, the bookmakers have made Woods their favourite for the Quail Hollow Championship, which starts today, despite the presence of Masters hero Phil Mickelson and a host of other big-name players in a world-class field.

In reality, Woods is still feeling his way back. He's especially looking forward to playing two tournaments back to back and the opportunity to gauge his strengths and weaknesses one week and make adjustments for the next.

So, punters would be advised to keep their money in their pockets until next's week's Players Championship at the earliest. On yesterday's evidence, a lot of rough edges need to be shaved off Tiger's golf game before he'll contend on a course as demanding as Quail Hollow, despite his victory here in 2007.

"Today it was scratchy," he admitted candidly in a pre-tournament press conference, which was infinitely more laid-back than that jam-packed first session with the media on Monday of Masters week at Augusta.

"I hit some bad tee shots, some bad iron shots, some bad chips and some bad putts," Tiger continued. "But I still shot under par, somehow." Some things are unlikely to change, ever.

Asked if his life had returned to any semblance of normality, Woods shrugged: "Nah, there's paparazzi everywhere at home. There's helicopters here and there, people driving by and paparazzi camping out in front of the gates. That hasn't changed."

Yet Tiger's not alone in the goldfish bowl. Mickelson was snapped the morning after his Masters victory wearing the Green Jacket as he bought doughnuts for his kids in a drive-through.

"Well, throughout tournament weeks, I don't eat a lot of sugar or carbs, so I'd promised the kids we'd go and get doughnuts that Monday morning," Mickelson explained, adding with a broad grin: "It was a little chilly, so I just threw on a jacket and went."

Within minutes, a picture of Mickelson, Green Jacket and all, buying doughnuts was "all over the internet.

"You know, it's fascinating," he mused. "It just shows how much things have changed over the last 15, 20 years since I've been out on Tour. When I went to college we didn't have cell phones, yet everybody is media now. Even the lady behind the counter at Krispy Kreme is media."

Just ask Tiger, eh Phil?

Not that Woods is likely to be tempted much by confectionery or anything else in future.

Asked if he feared putting himself in the way of temptation now he's back on the road as a PGA Tour professional, there was no questioning the sincerity in Tiger's voice when he replied firmly: "No, not at all, not after what I've been through -- the treatment and (with the help of) all my peers."

Disappointment

Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy also return to action this week determined to leave behind the bitter disappointment of missing the cut at The Masters.

According to a senior figure at Harrington's management company, IMG, the Dubliner is thinking about adding next month's Welsh Open at Celtic Manor to his schedule.

When coupled with the St Jude Classic in Memphis, playing in Wales would restore Harrington's old protocol of playing two tournaments immediately before a Major, in this case June's US Open at Pebble Beach.

Ireland's triple-Major Champion has admitted that his confidence in his game had been undermined at Augusta by issues which had arisen at the previous week's Shell Houston Open.

Of course, Europe's captain Colin Montgomerie would be delighted to see Harrington at June's Ryder Cup rehearsal. Meanwhile, Monty yesterday revealed that he wants Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn as his vice-captains, but will not pop the question until after the British Open at St Andrews, giving both an opportunity to win their place as players.

Quail Hollow Championship,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 8.0

Irish Independent

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