Instead of holding a pre-tournament press conference ahead of this weekend's Wells Fargo Championships, Tiger Woods answered fan questions Monday on his website. And let's just say the video, like his swing at the Masters, had some technical difficulties.
We'll save you the 14 minutes: There were several benign queries about golf, which Woods answered while sitting on a nice couch in front of artwork. (Sample: "What do you think is the coolest-looking trophy of the four majors?") Woods gave no insight into what was so wrong with his game at the Masters or how much his personal life has changed since he ran over a fire hydrant in 2009 and started the most salacious scandal in recent sports history.
The video was odd to say the least. It started abruptly, jumped between questions awkwardly – it seemed to restart at the 11-minute mark – and ended strangely, with an answer about the U.S. Open course and then fade to black. It was vintage Tiger in the post-Elin era: forced, disjointed and maddeningly bland.
So reporters feel dismissed and fans feel left out, and that's nothing new. But perhaps we're looking right past the real problem: Woods has no answers.
We're not talking about eloquent, thoughtful, Oprah's couch answers. We're talking about any answers. At all.
Maybe Woods has no idea how to heal his life and fix his game. Maybe he has no answers to any questions that aren't specifically about golf shots, courses, and on-course strategy.
In other words, maybe he picks "softball" questions because the curveballs are baffling him as much as they baffle us.
Consider another post on Woods' blog – a written post. On April 11, he wrote of his win at Bay Hill: "I had control of my game. … I know what to do in those circumstances. It's just a matter of doing it."
Later in the same post, he writes about the Masters, and how "I just did not hit the ball well" and "I just couldn't quite get it done."
And in his post-Masters press conference, in which he interacted with actual humans, he said, "What's frustrating is I know what to do, and I just don't do it." He went on to say, "I can get it on the range, I can get it dialed in there … and I go to the golf course and I don't quite trust it."
[Jonathan Wall: Someone help Tiger, please]
This explains (but does not excuse) his club-kicking on the 16th tee Saturday at the Masters. He thinks he's got it, but he doesn't, and he's not sure where the breakdown is. And for someone who knows exactly what he needs to do but can't do it, well, that's gotta be enraging.
His prescription for this is to "do more reps." In his brief post-round presser after his Masters final round, Woods said "do more reps" three times.
Does this sound like someone who has answers?
Some will say he's simply obfuscating, and that he's holding stilted, over-programmed, boring Q&A's because he wants to give absolutely nothing away. It's possible, considering Woods never gave much away when he was winning. He'd smile and say he was "grinding" and pocket his weekly check. Clearly he was hiding something back then – namely a personal life that was corroding from within.
But look at this "answer" from Monday's video "interview": "I was struggling with my ball striking a little bit, and Sean [Foley] and I fixed it. It had to do with my posture. My setup wasn't quite right, along with my takeaway. We just did hundreds of reps to get it dialed in."
Hmm … really? That's it? He had posture issues and he fixed it through hundreds of reps? And this wasn't apparent during Masters weekend? But it's completely fine now? And we're sure he's not going to have the same issue again at Quail Hollow, where he has it "dialed in" on the range and then doesn't "trust it" when the tournament starts?
Questions like this would surely be asked at a real press conference, but what would Woods say? Saying the problem is fixed will only lead to more questions, along with ridicule that it's not fixed. Saying he has no idea is something he never does. And let's face it, he probably doesn't know for sure until the tournament is over. At that point in time, he likely will talk to the press.
And let's be fair: Even if he wins next week and the week after, nobody will be convinced he's "back" until he wins a major. So that question will linger whether he talks to a reporter or to a camcorder.
What also needs to be remembered is that Woods may not have many places to find answers for himself. His father has passed. His wife left him. His longtime caddy, Steve Williams, is no longer by his side. His former coach, Hank Haney, wrote a tell-all book about him. Foley still is new. That doesn't leave many options for real help.
This isn't to create pity for Woods. He made his own mess. He has been hard to read for years. The golf world – and much of the rest of the world – desperately wants him to be his old self on the golf course so we can plot a distinctly American comeback tale. He won't let us in.
But it's quite possible he won't let us tell his story because he's not sure how to write it himself. On Monday he said he didn't touch the clubs for a week. That's not like Tiger. He also said he rebuilt his swing in large part because he "trashed" his knees and he didn't want any more surgeries. He explained he now has two children he wants to be able to chase around. That sure doesn't sound like the warrior who marched through five rounds of the 2008 U.S. Open on a seriously damaged leg in pursuit of one of the most amazing victories in golf history.
So, in a way, it doesn't matter whether Woods answers grueling questions on "60 Minutes" or handpicked questions on a poorly edited home movie. There's only one real question here: "What is keeping you from coming all the way back?"
And that's a question he might be asking himself.
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