I marvel at the guy, actually. He never seems to get upset by a bad tournament. He never seems to get upset by a bad day. He doesnt grouse around or act grumpy. Woods takes everything in stride, smiling, cracking a funny or two, then skipping off to the hotel to go eat Italian.
Remember the U.S. Open at Southern Hills in 2001? His 81 in the third round of the British Open? Did you see him after this one?
He is so totally intense on the golf course - brow furrowed, expletives occasionally coloring the air, looking neither left nor right at his competitors while play is ongoing. But he reaches the scorers area and suddenly all is forgotten. In his mind, something very minor fouled him up ' one swing, one putt, one bad bounce. In basketball-speak, he was tripped up by the clock, time running out on him before he could get this certain minor problem straightened out.
That is why the only thing that rankles him is the suggestion that he is in a slump. He isnt, of course ' not if you are talking about, say, Greg Kraft. Greg would be thrilled with Woods non-wins. Tiger, though, is Tiger. So much more is expected of him than your average golfer, primarily because his father told us to expect a lot more. And then Woods went out and backed up his fathers words.
His terminology, though, is different than most of us. And if he doesnt want to call it a s-s-s-slump, then I certainly wont call it one. Its just a certain putt, a certain swing, a certain break or bounce that didnt quite go right.
But, how refreshing it is to see a great player that refuses to paste on that hang-dog look. Tigers words, his body language, his laughter ' theres something about all that that you dont see in too many players. When hes out there playing, he is grimly serious. When he is finished, he zips up his mess kit and leaves the alibis behind. Then, he comes out and plays another day. Grumbling is left to someone else.
Of course, it must be infinitely easier to do that when you have already won 37 times on the PGA Tour and have eight majors already in hand. If he doesnt win this week, he probably will win the next time a major championship rolls around; and if not then, well, the next time.
But - heres Tiger: I was so close to putting it together. You hit a good shot in there, you miss the slope by just a yard.
For instance, No. 12 today, hit a great high drive with a driver up against the wind, hit a pitching wedge in there, and I carried it one yard too far. So now, Im above the slope. Instead of using the backboard to kick it in, I hit a tough putt and it lips out.
I was close to putting it together this week. From that standpoint, it is frustrating. All I needed was a little bit of momentum to get things going.
He makes it sound like all those untidy shots at the Open were just bad luck. But if that is true, most of those that have turned out brilliantly have to be the result of good luck. Dont you believe it ' this is a man that, when hes right, can knock a flashlight off a mans shoulder at 200 yards.
But when talking about a Tiger round, you have to remember that its Tiger youre talking about. Not Briny Baird. Not Harrison Frazier. Not even Charles Howell III or Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh. But Tiger Woods. For some reason, hes always hitting those lucky shots. Occasionally he gets unlucky. Yeah ' right!
And ' he always thinks he can win, as long as it is humanly possible. Sunday he would have needed some kind of super-human score to pull it off ' but he figured it was a possibility. And even though he started 11 shots behind, he was certain that it would be done.
Oh, without a doubt, he said quickly. If I had posted a good solid number like a 62 or 61 when the conditions were firming up, you never know.
I got off to a pretty good start, birdied the first, hit driver off the second ' piped it ' hit sand wedge in there and hit it just past the hole. It didnt go, but thats indicative of how the week went.
It wasnt said boastfully. It wasnt meant to slight Jim Furyk, who played so well over all four days. It was just fact. And it was the way Woods thinks ' he sees rays of sunlight where others can see only the shadows.
And what do you know ' he would have been in a playoff if that 61 had been on his scorecard Sunday. It wasnt, though, and Tiger readily expressed his congrats to the winner.
Consistent, without a doubt, Tiger said of Furyk. The guy is, day in and day out, always pretty consistent.
So, incidentally, is Woods ' normally. When he is, its simple ' he wins. When he isnt, he will probably lose.
Probably, because he has won before when he wasnt really consistent. But he has always been consistent in one thing ' his likeable nature isnt affected by wins or losses.