Boy, that Tiger Woods is a swell guy.
He obviously knows how overworked we in the golf media are on a week-in, week-out basis. He undoubtedly understands our difficulties in trying to ask and re-ask new, exciting interview questions in hopes of writing and rewriting new, exciting pieces about him.
(Your sarcasm detector should be beeping feverishly by now...)
And so what has Tiger done for all of the hardworking members of the press focused on his every move? He gave us the day off.
On Monday, Woods will eschew interview questions from the media in advance of his appearance at the Wells Fargo Championship, instead answering Twitter and Facebook queries from fans.
All kidding aside, this is a positive PR move for a guy who desperately needs one -- or a few dozen. It should help get fans more involved on an interpersonal level and will serve as a de facto community outreach program for an adoring public that has largely stood by him during times of personal and professional strife.
It would be an even better idea if Woods chooses to answer more than just softballs. Over the past few years, the media has been criticized for not asking him the “tough questions,” although every time I’ve countered that theory with a query of my own about what constitutes such an inquiry, the resulting response is usually a question that’s been asked many times over already.
Quite frankly, I’m not sure what question remain unanswered for a guy who annually leads the PGA Tour in most answers proffered without actually saying anything.
I suppose I’d like to hear him address why, exactly, he acted so petulantly at times during the recent Masters Tournament. I’d like to know whether he believes he should be fined or suspended. I’d even like to hear someone invoke his own words from two years earlier, when he explained, “I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.”
Other than that, there aren’t many lingering issues for Woods to address right now. He certainly isn’t playing the best golf of his career, but he’s only a month removed from winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five strokes, so it’s difficult to pan him for poor performances.
Should fans choose to dredge up the past, they can ask whether he still embraces Buddhism and meditates every day, or whether he’s ever taken performance-enhancing drugs, or what really happened on the night of Thanksgiving in 2009, however there’s less a chance of him answering those questions than of an 18-handicap beating him straight up in match play.
The fact is, Woods and his PR team will be able to handpick which questions they’d like to answer and it’s difficult to imagine they will veer very far from the likes of, “How do you think Stanford will do without Andrew Luck next year?” and more statement-oriented proclamations, such as, “Dude, your new video game rocks!”
Of course, even if Woods decides to answer the so-called “tough questions,” he’ll respond in a way that only he can, by giving indirect, abbreviated responses to legitimate queries. That’s not a knock against him; in fact, his evasiveness is something for which many unrestrained athletes should be striving for.
I once wrote that Tiger handles all questions “as if there's a media coach with a direct line to his inner ear canal, producing answers that are informative without ever revealing too much.” He has a propensity to mow down provocative inquiries like a series of uphill two-foot putts.
It would be terrific to see and hear him answer the fans with a thoughtful, direct approach, but the reality is that we’re more likely to hear an amalgamation of his greatest hits album:
“It is what it is…”
“… more than anything, I’m working on my traj…”
“… I’m trying to peak four times a year…”
“… if you don’t have butterflies on the first tee, then you don’t care enough…”
“… the goal has never changed, I’m here for a W.”
It’s all part of the plan, either premeditated or instinctual. Woods simply won’t allow any information or opinion that he doesn’t want you to know. And since he’s so well versed in the art form of the interview and is rarely taken aback by a single question, he always remains in full control of those responses.
That is one reason why my best advice for anyone interviewing Tiger is to counter many of his answers with a quick follow-up. Asking either “Why?” or “How?” gets him thinking about his response rather than dialing up the automated version and usually produces the most human reaction.
Sadly, that likely won’t be an option for fans when Woods answers their questions on Monday. It’s an innovative move to deal directly with the public and forgo the media and I’m excited to witness the end result. Let’s just hope a few of those “tough questions” get mixed in amongst the softballs.