Golf: A year after turmoil, Tiger not looking backBy Jim Slater
AUGUSTA—A year after vowing to appreciate fans more, show greater respect to golf and become a better man in the wake of a devastating sex scandal, Tiger Woods is trying to ignore the past at the Masters.
A disgraced Woods came to Augusta National last year off a five-month golf hiatus after an admission of affairs with multiple mistresses and worried about the reception he might receive from spectators.
Fans greeted him graciously, polite applause growing to cheers by the end of a week when he finished in a share of fourth, a result he has not bettered since in a top-level event.
“I need to be a better man than I was before,” Woods said in 2010. “I’m trying as hard as I possibly can each day to get my life better and stronger. If I win championships along the way, so be it.”
Woods, who was divorced from ex-wife Elin Nordegren last August, enters Thursday’s opening round of the 75th Masters on a win drought of nearly 18 months and saying little about past vows while focusing on his golf game.
“Last year was last year and this year is this year,” Woods said. “I’m just looking forward to this week. My main focus is to get ready and be prepared and come the first tee shot, be all cylinders go.
“As far as being a better person I try to do that each and every day. That will always be the case.”
Asked how the changes in his personal life over the past year had impacted his game, father-of-two Woods replied, “Well, I think it’s getting back to playing golf and getting into the rhythm of that.”
Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record 18 major wins of Jack Nicklaus, was ranked world number one when he arrived at Augusta National last year and is now seventh, although he could retake the top spot by winning.
Woods had said he would try to control his loud cursing when hitting bad shots, but would not take the bait when asked about the profanity suspension facing England football star Wayne Rooney, instead questioning the questioner.
“You like to ask questions each and every year, don’t you?” Woods said.
Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne scolded Woods on the eve of last year’s Masters, saying, “Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.
“It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here. It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids.
“I hope he realizes every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.
“Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change.”
This year, Woods has a business bond with Augusta National, which approved the use of the course in a videogame that bears Woods’ name.
Payne said Wednesday that the videogame partnership with EA Sports and Woods came together two years ago and is a source of pride for the club while praising Woods.
“We continue to believe Tiger is one of the greatest golfers of all time and we hoped and prayed that his comeback would go forward in a very positive way,” Payne said.
“When we embraced the game some two years ago, we took as the partnership of us, EA and Tiger. We are very proud of that. It has, in its very early days, proven to be an enormous success.”
For Woods, this week’s first goal is simply to reach the back nine holes on Sunday and give himself a chance at his mission to claim a fifth Masters green jacket, one shy of Nicklaus’ record all-time total, and a 15th major crown.
“There’s so much work that has to be done between now, 63 holes, basically, to get yourself to that back nine,” Woods said.
“I just want to be a part of that action and let the chips fall where they may. I just need to be part of that action. That’s how you win those tournaments is you just need to be there.”