Mixed Bag


2010 AT&T NationalNEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – As news cycles go this one certainly qualified as a mixed bag for one Eldrick T. Woods.

Let the record show in less time than it takes to complete some matches this year at Wimbledon the world No. 1 has been linked to media reports regarding:

– A divorce settlement with wife Elin Nordegren in the London Sun on Wednesday. According to the report Woods will have joint legal custody of the couple’s children, but Nordegren would get physical custody, and she will end up with a cash and property settlement worth $750 million.

– A New York Times report that said Woods met with federal authorities regarding their investigation of Dr. Anthony Galea who has been accused of distributing human growth hormone. According to Woods after his opening round at Aronimink Golf Club the meeting occurred last week in Orlando, Fla., and lasted “a couple hours.”

“I cooperated and answered all their questions,” Woods said and his agent Mark Steinberg told the Associated Press via an e-mail that his client was not the subject of any criminal investigation.

– A Golf Digest Q&A with Hank Haney during which Woods’ former swing coach said his relationship with Woods “didn’t get dysfunctional; it always was dysfunctional.”

– And, finally, in a completely related item, a card that featured 30 putts, just over half his fairways hit and a bogey-par-bogey-double bogey-sloppy par finish here in this leafy Philly suburb that added up to an opening-round of 3-over 73.

Not that golf really matters right now. Salacious matters.

Headlines haven’t spoiled a good walk so thoroughly since George Bush No. 1 was roaming the hallways of the White House and the fairways of Kennebunkport.

For so many years golf wanted mainstream only to discover that mainstream can be mean. Not that Woods doesn’t deserve some measure of his tabloid plight. It’s just that this week’s free-for-all has the feeling of piling on.

Bad news rarely picks a time of our choosing, but here, at a tournament that has brought out the best in Tiger the person as well as Tiger the player, the litany of PR bombs has the feel of karma getting even, or overly creative during a slow news day.

AT&T National has always been a salute to Woods’ father, Earl, and his close connection with the military, and a charitable foundation that, despite the founder’s imperfections, is almost as influential for wayward children as Woods’ resume is historic.

With the move to Aronimink this year and in 2011 officials changed the winner’s trophy to a replica of the Liberty Bell. Perhaps they should have opted for a replica of Rocky given how many times the tournament’s pseudo-host has been on the mat the past few months.

On Nov. 27 we started learning the man was not perfect. In the weeks since he began “The Comeback” we’re coming to grips with the reality that his game isn’t the stuff of Teflon right now either.

But then this much was as predictable as an Aronimink chipping swale, what with headlines like “A hero & a bum at the same time” waiting for him in the morning paper.

The Twitter take on Woods’ opening round: Hit it well enough, couldn’t buy a putt. See: Beach, Pebble sans the “awful” Poa.

Of course it’s hard to imagine a player, even a once-in-a-generation guy like Woods, putting the blinders on for a 66 as the fishbowl gets smaller by the headline. Some people compartmentalize in situations like this, Woods may need to build a castle if he’s going to weather the storm that continues to build.

The question isn’t where he is in the comeback, the question is where he is as Rome crumbles.

When the fourth or fifth most-pressing question for Woods is which club he knocked into the pond at the 17th hole golf is no longer an escape, it’s background noise.

We recently asked one Tour sports psychologist what pro bono advice he would offer Woods in his time of need? Wouldn’t know what to say, was the answer.

Woods was asked Thursday afternoon if it was hard to focus on golf given everything going on his life? “I’ve ran a few tournaments over the years,” he answered, either missing the point or making the most of an opportunity to duck a difficult question. Either way, the answer makes one wonder if there’s enough steely resolve within that red shirt to shoulder through all the clutter and do what he does best – win.

St. Andrews in two weeks had the feel of a fitting first given his track record on the Old Course, but then the British press promises to be even more pointed then their American cousins. All of which would make a third Open Championship victory at the Auld Grey Toon more than historic, it would be heroic on some level given the circumstances.

“Tiger’s an old 34, no doubt about it. It’s good and it’s bad,” Haney told Golf Digest. “On one hand he has more experience; on the other hand maybe he sometimes feels tired of the whole thing. It’s a guess, really.”

And getting older with each news cycle.