First, congratulations to Phil: he had a Hall of Fame (HOF) round on a HOF course at a HOF tournament by a a HOF golfer. In other words, he played great with the kind of round that will be a highlight someday when they are discussing Phil’s career.
Now back to Mr. Tiger. Let me say that I try to keep what athletes do in their personal lives separate from what they do as athletes. For that reason I’ve been able to remain a fan of Tiger the golfer. He’s one of the greatest of all time. That much can be said without argument.
I’ve been routing for him to make a comeback for the excitement and quality of golf he brings to most tournaments he’s in. However, his behavior in interviews is really getting tiresome and might have something to do with why he’s stuck on number 14.
At the end of his round on Sunday he gave an interview, which is more than he usually does when he loses. The interviewer served him a softball at the end asking him what he thought of Phil’s round. All he had to say was ‘Remarkable, my hat goes off to him, he deserved to win’.
Even if there’s bad blood between the two, there’s a code of good sportsmanship that all great athletes must adhere to; recognize great performance when it happens and respect your fellow competitors. Tiger’s snub was inexcusable.
The tiresome part is his steely eyed, gritted teeth refusal to say anything about his own game but ‘I played well’ or I couldn’t adjust to the speed of the greens. He might have played well for most golfers on the planet last Sunday, but he didn’t play well for Tiger Woods and he didn’t play well compared to Phil Mickelson who beat him by 8 strokes that day. If you think that’s playing well, then you’re not the Tiger Woods I thought I knew.
Every golfer suffers and everyone who plays knows this. Everyone has moments when you wonder why you continue to play. We look to the best to show us how to handle disappointment, move on and get our games back on track. Tiger just can’t seem to share anything real about his game unless it’s commenting on a highlight reel moment.
Billy Harmon made a very telling comment on the Golf Channel yesterday about Tiger’s missed putt on the first hole on Sunday. He said Tiger made a putting stroke filled with doubt and ended up pushing it by the hole. Champions miss putts, but they don’t doubt themselves.
Nowadays, when Tiger gets to a Major the doubt starts creeping in, particularly on Saturday and Sunday. Billy went on to say that Tiger will figure it out and get back on track, that all great players go through periods of doubt which they have to endure and emerge purified on the other side.
My belief is you can’t fix something if you don’t acknowledge it and this is where Tiger’s stoic interviews hurt him. He never says much except that he ‘had to grind it out’. In fact, ‘grind’ is the most used word in a Tiger interview, or so it seems. Does Phil say ‘grind’? rarely.
Phil continues to show us his human side. He’s not afraid to call himself even ‘stupid’ at times, the operative word being ‘afraid’. Tiger is afraid to explain where his problems are and that fear is only going to mount in future Majors until he takes it head on. It’s as if he’s trying to convince himself he’s not afraid by refusing to say he’s got problems.
Even though he’s one FOUR times this year, more than anyone else, there is something very wrong when he gets to the Majors. I don’t believe golf is fun for Tiger. I wonder if his friendship with Rory has taken the fun out of Rory’s game as well. I hope not. Rory is a streaky player, who goes by feel and when he’s having fun he’s superlative. As his game continues to remain in the doldrums his mood is turning more sour.
Maybe Rory should go play a few rounds with Phil and forget Tiger. Phil is having a blast on the course and it shows. He doesn’t feel he has anything to prove, whereas Tiger is still focused on beating Jack’s record in the Majors.
Phil will take on any shot with excitement, not steely eyed determination. If he hits a bad shot he moves on. He’ll even say he hit a bad shot when asked, not ‘I had to grind it out’. Perhaps Tiger’s attitude has finally become tiresome even for him.
Maybe the key to Tiger’s renewed dominance in Majors isn’t Shaun Foley, maybe it’s an attitude adjustment. Forget the swing coach and go find a psychoanalyst or start practicing at Captain Carl’s Mini Golf, then come back and win the PGA at Oak Hill!