Golf: Tiger restores normal order

Woods agent put sex-caddie back in his box after big split

RORY McILROY chose Twitter as the medium by which to slap down an irritant.

Tiger Woods sent in the heavy mob, also known as Mark Steinberg, his agent-cum-enforcer, to restore law and Tiger order. As a result, do not expect any more bulletins from Steve Williams about the health of the golfing nation. He is a caddie very much back in his box. Woods may not win this week, though he says he is coming for the ‘W', but he left none at the US PGA Championship in any doubt about where the power lies in this game. The media suite at Atlanta Athletic club was oversubscribed to the point at which the organisers were considering the airline option of offering cash incentives for ticket holders to surrender seats.

Woods is adept at flat-batting incendiary deliveries. He did not over elaborate on his post-Bridgestone exchanges with Williams – Steinberg met with him on Monday. Rather, like a mafia capo, Don Tiger conveyed his message more by demeanour and tone. Asked about his view on Williams's post-victory oratory, Woods ducked the bouncer and said he was happy for Williams and Adam Scott. “Adam has been a friend of mine, and same with Stevie. I sent Stevie a nice text after completion of play, congratulating him on his win. It was good to see them go out there and play as well as they did,” Woods said.

But what about the conversation between Williams and Steinberg, Tiger? “They talked, yeah, absolutely.” Just talked? “They talked.” Few lead an inquest into a dead end like Woods. When asked if he had any regrets about the fallout, Woods said: “We all need changes. I was at peace with it. I'm not going to speculate on Steve. Those are obviously his feelings and his decision to say what he wants to say.” In other words, no further questions. It is at junctures like this, with Woods in absolute control of his environment, that we begin to understand how he won 14 majors, how he is able to conjure the intensity to compete time and again. It is the same instinct that allows him to believe he has a chance to win the final major of the season when the evidence ridicules the thought. And the same sense of omnipotence that protects against setbacks.

The formal announcement yesterday of the severance of ties stretching back 10 years by sponsor Tag Heuer did not begin to breach the mental defences he erects around himself. Woods has to pinch himself when the question about winning again is raised. He cannot believe that there is a sentient being who might not share his view that when he is done with golf it will be his name, not that of Jack Nicklaus, etched most profoundly in the record books. He might be right. Who would back against him? Not many sat before him in Atlanta. That said, this week has surely come too early for him.

Not for Rory McIlroy, who looked every inch a golfer at one with this milieu. So relaxed is McIlroy that he felt able to keep Graeme McDowell waiting for their date on the back nine yesterday while he watched on television in the clubhouse his favourite tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki, competing against Roberta Vinci in Toronto. Believe it not, McIlroy is here to work. A circumstance he is celebrating after the anomie of June and July, when the effects of his seismic win at the US Open were still playing out. Only on his return to the United States last week for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational did McIlroy feel he had stepped off his inner open-top bus.

“J.P. (Fitzgerald, caddie) and I were talking in Akron. We actually felt as if we were back to doing what we were supposed to do,” he said. “It was a little bit of a whirlwind after Congressional, but it's nice to feel like you're back out there and finally working hard again, focusing on trying to win golf tournaments.” GROOMED A high of only 92 degrees was forecast for today, an apposite temperature for a young hotshot being groomed to fill a big hole. McIlroy is the heir-apparent to Woods, the player for whom the galleries in America fell when Woods was absent. Heroic defeats (Masters) and emphatic victories (US Open) romanticised McIlroy. There is no unnecessary complexity to unpick in the cherubic Ulsterman. He is young, gifted and wins. And he is the favourite to do so here.

This is what the world's No1 and No2, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, are up against. Brilliant golfers both, neither has that intangible quality, stardust, X-factor, call I what you will, that calls the masses to McIlroy. Charisma is no guarantee of success. Then again, it is not a quality found in losers.

© The Daily Telegraph