Silence nothing new for Tiger Woods
The PR specialists who are making themselves available for expert opinion (and their own publicity) have mostly concluded that Woods is making a big mistake by hiding behind his silence over the car crash outside his home last week.
Not many would dispute that.
Keeping quiet only fueled speculation and innuendo that is not likely to end with the Florida Highway Patrol announcement Tuesday that Woods will be cited for reckless driving and fined $164, and its investigation is over.
Even so, no one should be surprised by how Woods and his management team are proceeding.
He has been handling things his own way since he turned pro.
Woods does not get into many media confrontations. When he does, the response is short and often distributed on paper.
After the famous GQ article in 1997, in which Woods was quoted as telling jokes with racial overtones in the back seat of a car, he issued a statement through IMG in which he confessed to the jokes. “It’s no secret that I’m 21 years old and that I’m naive about the motives of certain ambitious writers,” it said.
He was playing at Bay Hill when the article came out. The day after his statement, upon finishing his round, Woods rushed by a group of reporters and ducked inside a tent to sign autographs.
That was the first – and last – time Woods could be found in an autograph tent.
At his next news conference, a week later at The Players Championship, Woods repeated the line about being naive. When someone started to ask about the magazine article, Woods cut him off.
“I have already answered enough on that GQ article,” he said.
His first big gaffe happened right after he turned pro in 1996, when he was playing on sponsor exemptions to get his PGA Tour card. Once he had the money he needed in four tournaments, Woods abruptly withdrew from the Buick Challenge, citing exhaustion. The problem was he also bailed on an invitation-only dinner in his honor to receive the Fred Haskins Award for being the NCAA Player of the Year.
Woods offered only a statement – no mention of the dinner – and was roasted by players and tournament officials.
He finally responded with a guest column for a golf magazine in which he recognized his mistake.
“Even though I know I did the right thing in getting away, I should have stayed long enough to attend the dinner and then gone home,” he wrote. “But hindsight is 20-20.”
Those incidents were quickly forgotten after Woods began an astonishing run into the record books with his watershed victory in the 1997 Masters. But then came another incident, perhaps the most publicized – until now.
A week after his Masters victory, Fuzzy Zoeller was quoted on CNN as suggesting Woods not have fried chicken on the Champions Dinner menu the next year. “Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve,” Zoeller said.
Zoeller apologized immediately. It took three days for Woods to accept the apology – through a statement. By then, Zoeller had lost his endorsement with KMart, and the popular two-time major champion was never the same. During the longest three days of Zoeller’s life, Woods was said to be unavailable while meeting with Nike executives in Oregon.
More issues followed. More guarded responses.
The all-male membership at Augusta National? Woods managed to take both sides of the delicate issue, saying the club should have a female member while acknowledging the rights of a private club to set its own rules. It got so intense that The New York Times wrote an editorial urging Woods to boycott the Masters.
Through it all, he never got off script.
In a 2000 dispute with the PGA Tour over ownership of his marketing rights, Woods used a golf magazine to get across his complaints. When a reporter caught up with Woods in Spain and asked if he would ever leave the Tour, Woods delivered another calculated answer without saying a word. He smiled and he shrugged. And then he walked away.
He met with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem two months later, and they have been mostly allies ever since.
Even without time to prepare an answer (or statement), Woods has dismissed criticism of other issues – from throwing clubs to cursing to not helping tournaments by announcing earlier his intentions to play – with a short answer.
A year ago, his caddie was quoted by a New Zealand newspaper making disparaging remarks about Phil Mickelson. The night before his news conference at the Chevron World Challenge, Woods put out a statement saying he was disappointed in caddie Steve Williams, and that he had dealt with the matter and it was closed.
He took two questions the next day, no more. The issue never really came up again.
Woods so far has issued one statement on his Web site about the car crash – two days after the patrol first reported the accident. He said it was his fault, that he’s not perfect. He praised his wife for acting “courageously.” And he said it would remain a private matter.
Woods likely will go another two months before facing the media. Even if the story has lost its steam, questions are sure to come up.
If history is any indication, Woods still won’t answer them.
Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.
Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.
Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.
“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”
It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.
Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.
“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”
It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
Tweets by GCTigerTracker
McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.