PARAMUS, N.J. – For the first time all summer, Tiger Woods showed up at a PGA Tour event knowing that his day would not include phone calls from a lawyer or divorce documents to approve.
He is only married to his golf now.
“This is my job,” Woods said Wednesday. “This is what I do.”
Even so, Woods slowly shook his head when asked if he felt relief that his divorce became official two days ago.
“I don’t think that’s the word,” he said. “I think it’s just more sadness. Because I don’t think ever go into a marriage looking to get divorced. That’s the thing. That’s why it is sad.”
Woods still could not avoid talk about the end of his nearly six years of marriage to Elin Nordegren, brought on my numerous extramarital affairs that were exposed last Thanksgiving.
As he was teeing off in the rain during the pro-am, People magazine released an interview with his ex-wife in which she spoke openly about how her world fell apart and that she has “been through hell.”
Before he completed the first hole, his agent and spokesman were outside the rope, each talking on a cell phone.
Then, after Woods hit his approach to the green, a tabloid columnist walked out into the fairway with notepad and pen to ask him questions. She had never been to a golf tournament and was not aware that reporters are to stay by the ropes.
It took five questions on his game before Woods was asked about his divorce and his ex-wife’s interview, although Woods handled both questions with the same, measured tones, not revealing much.
“I wish her the best in everything,” he said. “You know, it’s a sad time in our lives. And we’re looking forward in our lives and how we can help our kids the best way we possibly can. And that’s the most important thing.”
They have two children, 3-year-old daughter Sam and 18-month-old son Charlie. The divorce allowed for “shared parenting,” and Woods completed a four-hour program on family stability the day before he left for the British Open.
The process of getting a divorce consumed most of his summer, not only on the golf course, but during his weeks at home when he was practicing and preparing for the majors. Ten majors now have passed without Woods winning, matching the longest drought of his career.
Asked to describe how the details of divorce affected his practice, Woods said, “It was a lot more difficult than I was letting on.”
“My actions certainly led us to this decision,” he said. “And I’ve certainly made a lot of errors in my life. That’s something I’m going to have to live with.”
As for the job? That’s not going so well, either.
Despite a tie for fourth in the Masters in his return from a five-month hiatus, and a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open, Woods has played so poorly that he comes to The Barclays at No. 112 in the FedEx Cup standings, with no guarantee he will make it to the next playoff event.
For starters, he has to make the cut at Ridgewood Country Club, a course he saw for the first time Wednesday. Then, he likely has to finish somewhere around the middle of the pack to move into the top 100 and qualify for next week’s playoff event outside Boston at the Deutsche Bank Championship, which benefits his foundation.
Woods asked coach Sean Foley to look at his swing during the PGA Championship two weeks ago, and he met with Foley twice in Orlando, Fla., last week. On several holes during the pro-am, Woods tucked a golf glove under his right armpit during a full swing, a technique aimed to keep his arms connected.
Whether he hires Foley as his next coach has not been decided. Woods is not sure he wants to revamp his swing again, knowing how much time it will take and how much time he has lost already.
“It’s an undertaking that I have to wrap my head around, because it’s going to take some time,” he said.
He drove the ball great at the AT&T National and British Open and couldn’t make a putt. He hit the ball all over Wisconsin during the PGA Championship and kept in the game by making putts. And then there were weeks like Firestone, where he did nothing right and shot the worse score of his career, an 18-over 298.
For the ninth time this year, Woods can lose his No. 1 ranking to Phil Mickelson. His solution for staying at the top and getting a tee time next week on the TPC Boston is the same. “Winning takes care of everything,” he said.
“I’m trying to get my game in order – work on some new things, working with Sean,” Woods said. “And I’m trying to put that together and hopefully play well for the rest of the year. As of right now, I need to play well to make it to next week. So that’s kind of the focus right now.”
Even now, though, the focus is not entirely on golf.
“As far as my game and practicing, that’s been secondary,” he said. “We’re trying to get our kids situation to our new living conditions and how that’s going to be. That’s where our focus is going to be right now.”