TIGER WOODS announced yesterday that he has separated – from the putter with which he has won 13 of his 14 majors.
While refusing to comment on whether a divorce settlement has now been agreed with wife Elin, the world number one was happy to discuss dropping the club which has helped make him arguably the greatest player in golf history.
Woods has used the same Scotty Cameron blade since the Byron Nelson Classic in 1999 however, it has been discarded for this week at least because he is not at all happy with the St Andrews greens.
Because some vile weather is predicted for later in the week, a decision has been taken not to cut them as tight as would normally be the case and that doesn’t sit at all well with the man who has won each of the last two Opens played over the Old Course.
“I’ve always struggled on slower greens,” he reasoned.
“This new putter rolls the ball better and gets it rolling faster.
“Some of my best putting rounds were when the greens were running at 14 on the stimp whereas today one of the guys was out there doing a test and it was under 10, so obviously they’re not up to speed, at least not yet.”
Woods has changed to a Nike putter which means every club in his bag now comes from his major sponsor and probably most loyal supporter throughout the trauma of the last eight months.
As in Adare last week, Woods fended off all questions about his private life and was equally diffident when the subject of his spitting and cursing was raised.
Asked if he was prepared to cut out all that behaviour and “respect the home of golf,” he replied: “I’m trying to become a better player and a better person, yes.”
Much of the press conference became something of a serve and volley match.
Would it bother him if people gave him a different kind of reception this time?
“Hey, it’s their opinion, everyone is entitled to their opinion.”
How much more work does he need to do to rebuild his image?
“Well, just the same thing I’m doing each and every day, just trying to become a better person.”
Does he think he’ll ever be fully able to do it?
“I don’t know, I don’t know.”
Is that part of the challenge?
“No, as I said, just trying to become a better person and all that really matters is that I have two beautiful kids and I’m trying to be the best dad I can possibly be and that’s the most important thing of all. I don’t practice as much as I used to because of the kids nor should I. They’re the most important things in my life.”
And when asked to confirm speculation about a divorce, he deadpanned: “I’m not going to go into that.”
Eventually things returned to the reason he and the game’s top players were in this corner of the world.
Woods claims to be “neutral” in his view of the new, tougher 17th Road Hole stating that “all you’re basically hitting is a little bit more club into the green but it’s the same tee shot.
“It’s the same angle. You’re taking the same line off the tee. It’s a tough hole and I know they wanted us to hit more club into that particular green.
“They did a study in 1995 and the average player was hitting a 5 iron. Come 2000, 2005, I think it was like an 8 iron so they wanted to get it back to a 5.”
Woods is quoted as 5/1 favourite for the championship largely on his past achievements rather than his form even if he finished fourth in both the Masters and US Open.
So does he feel that he has an advantage over his rivals at St Andrews?
“I wouldn’t say a specific advantage because there’s a lot of guys who can hit the ball as far as I do,” he reasoned.
“But this golf course requires placement. You really have to place the ball correctly.
“Just because it’s wide off the tee doesn’t mean you can blow it all over the place.
“You have to hit it in the correct spots and the two years that I’ve played well here, I’ve done that. I’ve managed my game really well, and more importantly, I’ve putted beautifully.”
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