Tiger ignores the tabloids and keeps his focus on golf
JIM LITKE | ASSOCIATED PRESS Strong start shows promise for golfer amid winless season
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The tabloids over here banged the drum steadily for the better part of a week, hoping to guarantee Tiger Woods a much rowdier reception on this side of the Atlantic than he’s received so far back home.
Didn’t work. The best stunt anyone managed all day was pulled off by three young women behind the gallery ropes at No. 3 who shed their coats in a light rain to reveal sleeveless Tiger-print blouses just as their prey stepped onto the tee.
You might think their inspiration was yet another headline in one of the papers Thursday morning: “Troubled Tiger Needs Support of the Crowd, Now More Than Ever.” But no. Turns out the blouses, as well as the tickets, Caddie Steve Williams offers advice to Tiger Woods as they approach the second hole during the first round of the British Open on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, on Thursday. were provided by an Irish bookie seeking some publicity on the cheap.
Two other tabloids, meanwhile, fretted about Woods’ “mental frailty” and his decision to change putters. Just like the women, Woods ignored the papers, too.
He made his way around St. Andrews in near-perfect conditions — steady drizzle, the gentlest of breezes — and shot 67. That left him four strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy, and pleased with the state of his game, his new putter and especially his reception.
“They’ve always been respectful and enthusiastic here,” Woods said, referring to the galleries. “There’s no reason it would be any different.
“As for my game, I’m in good shape. I took advantage of a golf course when I needed to take advantage of it.”
Woods was very good, making five birdies to offset a lone bogey, but by his exacting standards, not great. He also had trouble again closing out what could have been a great round, missing a 4-footer for par at the 17th and a 10-footer for birdie at the 18th, both after brilliant lag putts over humps and hollows from off the green.
“It’s getting better every week,” Woods said. “Every week I’m playing, the things I’ve been working on have been starting to come together. I’m hitting shots that I haven’t hit in a long time. It’s building.”
Woods has never gone more than seven tournaments to start a season without winning at least once, and this British Open marks his seventh event. On top of that, he’s won the Open the past two times it was held at St. Andrews, including a record-setting performance in 2000.
Yet the longer his winless streak stretches, the easier it becomes for the focus to shift away from his golf and back to his recently checkered past.
He deflected a lot of questions about his personal life this week, finally saying, “I’m trying to become a better player and a better person.”
If Woods’ life remains un- settled, it’s showing less and less in his play.
Woods hit the ball laserstraight off the tees. He also appeared comfortable solving the challenges that links golf presents, whether it required flighting his approach shots left or right, low or high, or manufacturing delicate shots into the greens.
Close pal Mark O’Meara thinks all the pieces are in place once more and all that’s left is for Woods to put them back together.
He pointed out that Woods had already finished tied for fourth in the season’s first two majors, the Masters and U.S. Open, “and he wasn’t close to being on his game.”
“He’s not all there, mentally, but his game is coming back,” O’Meara added. “I told him, ‘You can have all the fame, all the money, all the victories, but when your personal life is mixed up, none of that matters. Life is short, and you want it to be happy.’”