Tiger in disarray in Sawgrass practice
Tiger Woods looked despondent after a shambolic practice round for the Players Championship in Florida.
Nine holes of practice had seen five balls disappear into water, but when Tiger Woods spoke to reporters in Florida it was clear that the state of his game is not his major worry right now.
Four days after crashing to a 79 and missing the cut at Quail Hollow by an incredible eight shots, Woods looked and sounded thoroughly down as he tries to prepare for the £6.2million Players Championship, golf’s richest event.
Amid continuing reports that his Swedish wife is seeking a divorce over the sex scandal that rocked sport five months ago, the world number one admitted that his emotional turmoil is impacting on his golf.
“Absolutely,” said Woods, who has Ian Poulter as one of his two partners in the opening two rounds at Sawgrass and who could lose top spot in the rankings to Phil Mickelson if he is outside the first five on Sunday.
“I’ve had two different low moments. Obviously what I’m going through now and then my father’s death.”
This is the third event of his comeback. In the first he managed what many considered, given the circumstances, a brilliant fourth place in The Masters, but last week was arguably the worst of his career.
Invited to compare this return to golf to last year after an eight-month injury lay-off he replied: “This is more taxing certainly away from the golf course with paparazzi following me and all those kind of things.
“I didn’t have the distractions getting ready for events. You know, helicopters don’t normally fly over you on the range and kind of hover and film you.
“That wasn’t the case then, but that’s the case now.”
And when asked whether he was angry or surprised about the Sports Illustrated article in which nearly a quarter of players polled said they thought he had taken performance-enhancing drugs he answered: “After what’s happened in my life?
“Well, I haven’t taken it. I’ve never taken performance-enhancing drugs, never taken HGH (human growth hormone), never taken any of that stuff.
“But everyone is entitled to their opinion.”
As for how he is playing Woods added in spite of some of the evidence of his morning’s work: “It’s getting better, no doubt. It couldn’t get any worse.
“I don’t like missing cuts (he has only ever missed six as a professional and never two in a row) and it’s just one of those things where just a little bit of work, tighten things up a little bit and get refocused for this event.”
There are rumours that he and coach Hank Haney could be parting company, but on that he stated: “I’m still working with him.”
He was also categorical that the man advertising his “Grand Slam” irons on ebay for 250,000 does not have the real thing.
“They’re in my garage,” he said.
Because of how he played last week Woods is only joint favourite with Mickelson this time – and bookmakers William Hill’s think that has not happened since the 1996 Masters.
Because of how Rory McIlroy played last week – closing rounds of 66 and 62 to win his first US Tour title by four – he is listed as third favourite.
Woods is as impressed as anyone by the Northern Irishman, who turned 21 on Tuesday.
“Rory hits it past me. I shrimp it out there now,” he said after praising not only McIlroy, but also 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa for his 58 in Japan on Sunday.
“I think it’s how the game has evolved. With the advent of technology these kids are able to view their swings via a camera and make improvements so much faster and earlier.
“Their golf swings are so much better at an earlier age, even from when I grew up.”
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