DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – At least five times a week, I tell my 10-year-old son to choose his words more carefully. Tiger Woods should heed similar advice. For different reasons, mind you, but the same principle applies.
The greatest champion of this generation became that way, in large part, because of his unrelenting resolve to pound his competition into the ground along every step of the way. Every single day Woods woke up wanting to beat the snot out of anyone who stood in his path. He was essentially a stroke ahead of the field while standing on the first tee each week because everyone knew he was the man to beat. It was a beautiful thing to watch for nearly two decades.
That man is long gone and likely never to return. Some of his Tiger-speak needs to hit the road, too.
Woods arrived at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic fresh off a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, yet sat in front of the assembled media on Wednesday and said he was here to win. He also insisted that he was perfectly healthy. Twenty-four short hours later we discover that neither of those comments were remotely accurate.
Woods on Wednesday
“Goal is to win it.”
“Whether my swing looks classical, rhythmical or it may look unorthodox, I don’t care. As long as I don’t feel nerve pain.”
Woods on Thursday, after shooting 5-over 77 and appearing to be in pain
“No, I wasn’t in pain at all. I was just trying to hit shot and I wasn’t doing a very good job.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg on Friday
“Felt OK coming off the golf course yesterday. So he wasn’t in pain. Dinner last night. I didn’t see him at dinner but said he was OK. And went into a spasm in his lower back, fairly late last night after dinner.”
He’s not ready to win. He’s not healthy.
Woods isn’t going to change, the whole old dog, new tricks analogy comes to mind. He said these things because that’s simply what he’s always done; Never let the competition see weakness, never let anyone see inside your soul, give as little information as possible. Earl Woods engrained those tactics into his son at an early age.
That philosophy is garbage now that his body has failed him and he’s not able to produce results.
Perhaps more than ever, critics are going to hold Woods’ words against him. If he says he’s ready to win, says he’s healthy, shoots 77 and withdraws the next day with back spasms then chaos inevitably is going to ensue. And Woods deserves all the heat he gets.
It’s a new day and this is a different Woods. Now is the time for him to choose his words more carefully. Step up, tell people that, while the goal has always been to win, right now the only focus is getting your game and your body ready to be more competitive with each passing week.
Say that it’s going to take time, even say that it’s a process. But don’t fly from Los Angeles to Dubai with an aching back, after missing the cut in San Diego, and say that victory is in the offing. Woods is not capable of playing 36 holes, he’s surely not ready to win.
It’s time for Woods to be more forthcoming with his prognosis. It won’t hurt him. Humble pie has never given anyone indigestion.