TIGER WOODS insisted yesterday that the delightful atmosphere of the JP McManus Pro-Am had lifted his spirits no end but his body language when he spoke to the media at Adare suggested that he is still a little uncomfortable and struggling to come to grips with the notoriety that has enveloped his life over the past seven months.
He helicoptered out of the Co Limerick resort headed for his home in Florida an hour or so after completing his second round of the Pro-Am in a three under par 69, an improvement of 10 strokes on his first 18 on Thursday, stressing that he was anxious to see his children, three-year-old daughter Sam Alexis and son Charlie Axel, who is now into his second year. However, mention of his marital strife and anything of that nature was met with a blank stare.
He did allow that “golf is something that I’ve done for a very long time and there are times in one’s life when things get put in perspective – one being when my father passed away and obviously what I’ve been going through lately”. He brightened up appreciably when the question of media intrusion into his personal life and how he had been treated by the fans at Adare was raised.
“That’s been the nice thing about playing and competing,” he stated. “I have a lot of friends out here and it’s nice to see a lot of those that I haven’t seen in a while, especially the touring pros. And the fans have been incredible since I’ve come back. I couldn’t have asked for a better return.
“It wasn’t just today, it was yesterday as well. They have come out and supported this event and supported what JP is trying to do and I think it’s absolutely incredible. I always want to support what he is doing. The charitable efforts that he’s made over the years are one of the reasons why I’ve come back. This is my third time doing it. What he has done is just remarkable. You just look at the field and you look at the people, the participants who have come out here and supported this event. If I can help out in any way, I will. That’s one of the reasons why I play.
“JP and I have become great friends over the years. It’s a testament to what he has done and is doing for Irish golf and Ireland in general. Everyone here is so privileged and honoured to be part of something like this. A lot of guys have come over here from the States and we have all enjoyed it. I’ve had a great time the last two days.”
Woods was clearly bowled over at partnering two heroes of the National Hunt racing scene, Grand National-winning jockey Tony McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald. He said it was “incredible what they put their bodies through”. “We had a chance to talk about their injuries and they have broken pretty much every single part of their body and still want to get back up there and ride. That is quite remarkable and a testament to how tough these guys really are.”
Having spent a few days back home, Tiger crosses the Atlantic once again at the weekend on his way to St Andrews and his quest for a second Open Championship at the home of golf and his fifth in all. As usual, he is a red-hot favourite at 11/2, more than eight points ahead of Phil Mickelson. Joint 4th in both the Masters and US Open represent his best finishes so far this campaign and suggest that he is still the man to beat in a major championship, all the more so at St Andrews. Even though he struggled in the AT&T National last week, still believes he made some pretty good strides in that event.
“I drove it great and just putted terrible,” he claimed. “Consequently, I finished way down the board and I’m really going to work on my lag putting. There are a lot of big, long lag putts at St Andrews. I fell in love with it when I first went there in 1995 because the lines and angles are not what everyone says they are. People say hit it miles left; you hit it miles left, that’s fine, but you have no angle.
“It takes a lot of imagination to win there. You look at past champions of St Andrews, a lot of them have great short games and great imagination and ball control. I’ll be there Sunday or Monday and looking forward to it for sure. To win at the Home of Golf is what every champion wants to happen in their career, it has such a special feeling walking up the last.”
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