Most guys try to play their way out of a slump. Not Tiger Woods. This is how he prepared for his “comeback” on the PGA Tour:
He sat around the house.
He fished some more.
He sat around the house some more.
“Mostly,” Woods admitted. “I was a couch potato.”
Some people just know their games. And Woods, apparently, is one of them.
Despite a host of recent problems, he resisted the temptation to tinker. He didn’t call up the sports psychologist in a cold sweat late at night. He didn’t invite the swing guru over for a barbecue and an impromptu practice session.
Instead, just before Woods flew up to Chicago for the Western Open, he called up pal Mark O’Meara. Rather than go fishing one more time, he proposed to end his self-exile by getting the clubs out of the garage and playing a round.
And this is what that little bit of R&R; did for Tiger:
On his first shot after a week’s layoff, with a huge gallery surrounding him and a local news channel’s helicopter hovering off the right side of the tee box, he striped a 3-wood exactly 284 yards down the middle.
His second shot was a 60-degree sand wedge from 88 yards. It came to rest a foot-and-a-half from the pin.
“I made that,” Woods said.
On his second hole, a 564-yard, par-5, he hit driver, then 2-iron from 220 yards, then he chipped up to 2 feet.
“I made that,” Woods said.
On his sixth hole, a 519-yard, par-5, he hit driver, 3-iron, then chipped down to 5 feet.
“And,” he said, “I made that.”
For good measure, he threw in a near-miracle sand wedge from one knee while camped under a pine at the fifth hole … a 270-yard 3-wood off the ninth fairway to set up an eagle try … and of course, the customary 300-plus-yard drives, sometimes boring them through the teeth of a 20-mph wind.
We could go on, but you get the point.
There is nothing to worry about.
Woods knew what the problem was and how to cure it.
He carded five birdies in his first eight holes and two more in his last two for a 5-under 67 to prove it. That left him a stroke behind O’Meara, who was leading the tournament and beat him at home last week to boot.
“I think more than anything, I was fresh,” Woods said. “I was ready to go.”
“The last few weeks, I’ve been kind of tired because I played five out of six weeks. And dealing with all the things I have to deal with,” he added, “it kind of wore me out a little bit.”
Woods said this with a straight face, but he knows what you’re thinking: That it sounds self-serving - if not flat-out ridiculous - for a 21-year-old to say he needs a vacation after playing five golf tournaments in six weeks. Especially a 21-year-old whose endorsement deals guarantee him $100 million during the next five years. Especially when there are guys out there who need to play every week just to hang on to their tour cards.
But think about what Woods means when he says “dealing with all the things I have to deal with.”
O’Meara does. He spent most of his time in the interview tent talking about that very topic.
“Golf kind of comes and goes,” said O’Meara, who is 19 years his senior but might be Woods’ best pal on tour. “But you win two tournaments back-to-back, and all of a sudden, everybody thinks you should win every tournament. Like I said, I’m glad I’m not Tiger Woods because you guys all expect him to win every week.”
The night before, O’Meara went to a restaurant near the course.
“No one knew who I was. I had a nice dinner my myself, read my newspaper … it was great … And you know,” O’Meara said, “he doesn’t have that opportunity.”