If You Dont Have Anything Nice to Say
Nowhere, as far as I know, does it say that a golfer must, after finishing his round, talk to the media. He has to show up on time, abide by the rules, sign his card and he is free to go. Of course, we want more. We want him to tell us the story, fill in the blanks and give us sound bites that are clever, free of clichés and do all this in a civil manner.
Are we asking too much? After all, to quote Maximus Decimus Meridius from the movie “Gladiator,” “Were we not entertained?” I most certainly was. I was beyond entertained; I was engaged and my head was spinning with the maelstrom of birdies and eagles. Yet, I wanted more, I wanted Tiger to say, “Well Bill, it felt good to be in the hunt late on Sunday in a major and I hope Brandel is choking on his analysis of my swing. I hope he knows by now that my ‘faux’ finish is real and it works.”
Better yet, he could’ve said: “I don’t know how this is going to end but I want to thank the patrons for their support this week and like the rest of the golfing world I’m going to go watch this tournament end and hope that I get to play more golf today. Nice talking to you, Bill.”
Instead Tiger was terse and short, possibly distracted by thoughts of what might have been or angered by what might have been. Nonetheless, his chance to connect with the fans on any level other than a visceral one was missed.
Why agree to talk if you’re not going to cooperate and what prompts Tiger to be so consistently smug, when he is interviewed? Most agree to talk after a round, either with TV or writers, out of a sense of obligation to their sponsors who pay them large sums of money for exposure and because there is much to gain by telling their story. Perhaps unfair judgments are made immediately, as to the intellect of the individual – whether he is nice, whether he is tough minded, whether he is bitter or emotional – but regardless, we all want to hear what they were thinking as they played. Having just jumped out of the fire it is understandable if players are not as interesting as their golf led us to believe, but we are a forgiving audience, who by and large, just want to know that the player is worthy of our interest.
Arnold Palmer gave so much to the throngs of reporters and they loved him for it and continue to love him for it, evidenced by the fact that he is still one of the highest paid athletes in the world and hasn’t won on Tour since the early '70s. Jack Nicklaus was respectful of journalist’s jobs to tell the story and was always appropriate.
Today, Phil Mickelson is good when dealing with the press, calls them by name, smiles and gives more than he is asked and when a question isn’t well phrased or isn’t clear he is accommodating, knowing that interviewers make bogeys from time to time too. Phil makes millions because of many things – because he wins, the way he wins and the way he answers questions, all of which make him a very attractive spokesperson for companies. CEOs of the companies he represents tell me he is worth every penny.
Tiger, despite not winning last year and despite losing sponsors, made over $70 million and was the highest paid athlete in the world. What is he being paid for? Is it just to win? Perhaps it is and that is enough for his sponsors, but if he wins and then is rude, does the sponsor get what it is paying for? Does the sponsor get the positive association that they hope will bias a viewer to buy its product? Maybe it doesn’t matter what Tiger says after an interview or how he says it, but I suspect it does.
It does matter and the millions Tiger is paid are for what he does after he wins, when we all want to connect the dots and figure out if he is worthy of our attention. He is free to be terse and short and smug but I suspect it will hurt him eventually, because skills fade, legacies endure and after the curtain goes down, companies pay for legacies. In the meantime I think Tiger should just say no and let his golf speak for him, because at least that gives us hope.
Years ago, when enduring a long series of questions after a round, Ben Hogan said, “ I hope one day that a deaf mute wins the U.S. Open, so you guys will have to figure things out on your own.”
I’m sure Tiger feels the same way, but since he is neither deaf nor mute, he should give his sponsors what they are paying for or give the money back. After all, he is not obligated to talk after a round; he is paid to.
Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.
Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.
Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.
So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.
How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:
1. Stay healthy
So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.
Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.
Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.
2. Figure out his driver
Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.
That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.
In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.
Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron.
Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”
That won’t be the case at Augusta.
3. Clean up his iron play
As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.
At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.
Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.
That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.
Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”
4. Get into contention somewhere
As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.
In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.
“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”
Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.
And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go.
“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”
Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.
Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA
Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.
The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.
According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.
Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.
The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.
Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.
Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.
“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.
Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.
Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”
With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.
Thomas was asked about that.
“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.
“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”
Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.
“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.
“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”
Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.
“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”
Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.
“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.
Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.
McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.
“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said. “That's what he said.”
The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.
The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.
“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”