Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour next week. If nothing else, his performance at Augusta National reminded us that the guy can score falling out of bed. Alright, maybe that was a bad choice of words. But his 2010 Masters, where he finished tied for fourth, was something to build on, right? Not if you're Tiger Woods, new or old. At least, not yet.
Woods claimed before the tournament started that, through his therapy, he was reminded that "it's not about championships. It's about how you live your life." Here's the problem with that: Woods has always been wired to win, plain and simple. It's who he is. It's in his DNA. Earl Woods told him growing up that second place sucks and third is even worse. When all you hear is win, win, win all your life, how do you change? That old saying about a leopard changing his spots comes to mind.
As the tournament unfolded, "The New Tiger," the one that signed autographs during practice rounds, the one that reportedly was close to playing in the Par 3 Contest for the first time since 2005, the one that actually smiled and looked at peace (must be that Buddhist bracelet!) gave way to "The Old Tiger." You know, the one that gives curt answers to the intrusive media, the one that makes sarcastic gestures when putts drop after the outcome has been decided, the one that curses like a sailor after bad shots. Oh, right, that.
Of his word choice, Woods told CBS' Peter Kostis after his final round that "people are making way too much of a big deal of this thing." Really? But didn't you say in your press conference before the tournament started that you "made a conscious decision to try and tone down (your) negative outbursts?" Check out uber-reverent, longtime Masters lead announcer Jim Nantz's thoughts on Tiger's language.
Woods also told reporters after the final round, "I only enter events to win." Hmmm. Again, that leopard.
So, what kind of on-course behavior can we expect from Mr. Huge-Quickly at Quail Hollow? Nobody knows. Not even Tiger. If anything, last week was a definite reminder the guy lives in a fishbowl that would make all of us uncomfortable. He garnered top headlines, in no particular order, for merely entering the U.S. Open, for entering Quail Hollow, and for his wife Elin reportedly on the verge of filing for divorce. The guy can't do anything without it being examined and re-examined by every media outlet from The Golf Channel to TMZ.
And that's why playing in Charlotte might not be the best idea. What happens when he drops the first expletive? Or his new one, when he drops the driver after a bad tee shot? He will be criticized by everyone, win or lose. "The Old Tiger"'s appearance at Augusta was a reminder that, yes, Tiger Woods is a great golfer. But it was also a reminder that the rehabilitation process for "The New Tiger" is far from complete. This isn't about where Woods ends up on the 2010 money list. This is about "Extreme Makeover: Tiger Edition." Woods' contrary comments before and after The Masters are stark reminders that it will take time for him to walk the new walk he's talked about. Rome wasn't built in a day and apparently neither is "The New Tiger".
Woods needs to return to whatever rehab he was in during his layoff ("That's personal, thank you") and figure out exactly what is most important: winning or changing?
If he's serious about showing respect for the game, Woods should limit his playing schedule. If not, he shouldn't say one thing and do another. And please, no more third-person references.