Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods' New Coach

Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods’ New Coach

Tiger Woods plans to return to golf Dec. 3 at the Hero World Challenge in Orlando for the first time since the PGA Championship.
David Walberg/SI

1. Tiger Woods made news as a blogger this week, penning a takedown of Dan Jenkins’ fake interview with Tiger in Golf Digest. Tiger called Jenkins’ piece “a grudge-fueled piece of character assassination.” What did you make of Tiger’s response: justified or over-sensitive?

AlanShipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Let’s be honest: this wasn’t Jenkins’s best work, and instead of being funny it came off as a bit mean-spirited. But this dustup isn’t really about Jenkins, it’s about Tiger and his handlers, specifically their breath-taking cluelessness when it comes to the media. The Jenkins column was already forgotten; Digest hadn’t even bothered to digitize it until Tiger’s, ahem, essay was published. Suddenly it was a must-read. If something is libelous or factually untrue, by all means put up a fight. But to whine that he didn’t like the column made Tiger look silly, and suggesting that anyone might believe it was a real interview was downright daffy. It was a fight he could never win, especially given Jenkins’ stature and the predictable reaction that the entire media would rally to his defense. Why even bother?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Tiger doesn’t forgive or forget. He also doesn’t understand criticism or media relations or else he would’ve ignored the piece. Instead, his response drove people to go read what Jenkins wrote. Same thing as early in Tiger’s career when an uncomplimentary piece in GQ might’ve gone ignored. Instead, Tiger’s response made it front-page news.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Woods’ people did Jenkins a great favor — he got millions more to read the piece. If you believe Woods wrote that response, you also believe he drove Buicks, back in the day.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Jenkins’ satire made predictable jokes and wasn’t all that scathing, but he did portray Woods as thin-skinned. In choosing to respond in a humorless fashion, Woods only reinforced Jenkins’ joke, and it’s shocking that no one in Woods’ camp could see that. If Chris Como reads and comprehends The Onion he could contribute more to Tiger’s team than just swing lessons.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): If I were doing Tiger’s PR I would have told him to let it lie. If he insisted, I would have suggested that we pen a fake interview with Dan Jenkins. That might have yielded some fresher material than either the column or the reply provided.

2. Tiger also has a new swing coach: tech-minded, 36-year-old Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Chris Como. What do you make of Tiger’s decision to go back with a coach instead of going it alone? And what would success look like for Tiger and Como?

VAN SICKLE: One thing we learned from Hank Haney’s book is that Tiger is as needy and insecure as any golfer. He needs another set of eyes to help him. I don’t know enough about Como to comment but success for Tiger has always been winning. Period.

SENS: Tiger has always been a swing wonk so it makes sense that he’d want someone to get into the nitty-gritty with. And nothing short of majors wins qualifies as success based on the standard Tiger himself has set.

RITTER: I thought Woods would have a coach before the Masters, but was a little surprised at the November announcement. Then again, why not? Tiger needs some new thoughts, new mechanics and new energy. Success for the duo will be easy to measure: win a major. Any major.

SHIPNUCK: I wish Tiger would have resisted the temptation. He’s maybe the most naturally gifted player ever; he doesn’t need a coach — especially one who’s into biomechanics and neuroscience — he needs to find it on his own. Success will be to win a couple of Tour events and contend at one or two majors. Anything beyond that is a home run.

BAMBERGER: Woods doesn’t have a new swing coach. He has, he said, a swing “consultant.” I don’t know a thing about Chris Como. But I find the language of this latest development, like the language of Woods’ response to Jenkins, so needlessly self-important and pretentious, and for that I blame Woods. He’s signing off on it.

3. Lydia Ko won the LPGA season finale, the CME Group Championship, in a playoff, capping a sparkling year for the LPGA, which saw its biggest stars like Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park and Ko all have important wins. How big a breakthrough did the LPGA make on the sports scene in 2014?

SHIPNUCK: Wie’s win at the Open was the biggest thing to happen to the LPGA since Annika pegged it at Colonial. To have so many other exciting, personable, telegenic players take big steps forward means this was, quite simply, one of the best years ever for the LPGA.

BAMBERGER: The LPGA is more interesting than it has been since the early days of Nancy Lopez. Good for them, and I hope they have an even better ’15.

RITTER: It’s hard to know if the LPGA dented the mainstream sports scene, but it’s safe to say that golf fans tuned into the women’s game this year with renewed interest. Women’s golf had a great year, and next season’s schedule includes more events and bigger prize money. Things are heading the right direction.

VAN SICKLE: Michelle Wie drew some great attention with her Open win at Pinehurst but she wasn’t able to back it up with anything. I didn’t see any LPGA breakthrough. A nice year for the tour, star-building in progress, that’s all.

SENS: In the context of global sports, barely a ripple. But everything is relative. given how badly the LPGA was struggling just a few years ago, this was a mega season.

4. In the CME playoff, Ko and Carlota Ciganda played the 18th hole four straight times, with no one making a birdie. Should sudden-death playoffs change holes if players tie on the first hole or do logistics make that too difficult?

VAN SICKLE: I’ve always thought playing the same hole over and over was a pathetic joke. Even the Masters just using 18 and 10 seems pretty lame. That’s not golf. But then, these aren’t golf tournaments, they’re TV shows. So it doesn’t really matter.

SHIPNUCK: Playing the same hole is deadly. It may be a minor hassle for fans to have to relocate to other holes but who cares? It’s a TV show.

BAMBERGER: That playoff was Caddyshack meets Groundhog Day — and a disaster.

RITTER: Tournaments want those playoffs to end on the 18th green in front of as many fans as possible, which makes sense. But golf is also a TV show, and the show would be more compelling if viewers saw some new scenery during a multi-hole playoff.

SENS: I can’t pretend to know all the logistical ins-and-outs of setting up for a playoff but plenty of venues pull it off, and, yes, it would be nice to avoid the Groundhog Day effect that repeating a hole has.

5. Donald Trump plans to change Turnberry’s par-4 9th hole into a par-3, and also use Turnberry’s iconic lighthouse as a halfway house. An affront to tradition and good taste or a forward-thinking idea by a successful iconoclast?

BAMBERGER: I think Trump should not change that course — it’s so good as it is, and one change like that can upset the balance of the whole thing. But getting a snack in the Trump Lighthouse — you could see getting a Trump-n-chips, with a cold Trump — sounds like good fun and good business.

SHIPNUCK: The tee shot on 9 is spectacular but if you drive to the right-center of the fairway, as you should, the approach is pretty straightforward, with the water in play only if you hit a big hook. So turning it into a par-3 might be a better use of the terrain because 10 could then be converted into the par-5 the course desperately needs — right now there is only one, and not until you get to the 17th. I’m all for having some grub out there; most courses in Scotland offer nothing to eat on the course and I’m always starving, no matter how much trail mix and beef jerky I pack.

SENS: I agree with the Donald that the second shot is anti-climactic and I don’t have a problem with the change. But you can also count on the fact that Trump wasn’t the only man behind this change. As long as he doesn’t build a casino on Ailsa Craig I think it will all be okay.

RITTER: I’ve never played Turnberry and want to see Trump’s final product before passing judgment. I do know this: I would absolutely stop for a burger at the Turnberry Lighthouse Bar and Grill (if it serves burgers). How often do you get to eat in a lighthouse?

VAN SICKLE: Is the Turnberry lighthouse by any chance going to be staffed by waitresses from Hooters? I would’ve thought the lighthouse was too difficult to access to be a handy halfway house. The worst part is, a halfway house snack bar is going to slow down play. Since golfing tourists stop for selfies at the lighthouse, anyway, maybe it won’t be even slower. But I doubt it.

6. Fox Sports announced the hiring of Corey Pavin, Juli Inkster and frequent Confidential guest Shane O’Donoghue to round out its U.S. Open team of Greg Norman, Joe Buck, Holly Sonders and Steve Flesch. What do you expect from Fox’s first U.S. Open broadcast next year? Will it be a significant departure from the televised golf we’re used to?

SHIPNUCK: Inkster is really smart and a great addition and O’Donoghue an excellent, creative hire but Pavin? Really? He’s quite possibly the least charismatic person in golf. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Fox folks if he’s their idea of a sexy new voice.

BAMBERGER: Shane O’Donoghue is among the most knowledgeable, insightful, interesting and open-minded commentators in all of televised golfdom. If that’s Fox’s instinct, to hire people like that, they will put on a very good show indeed!

RITTER: I expect lots of graphics, lots of energy and lots of fresh faces. I think it’ll be different, because Fox didn’t shell out all this money to trot out the same old broadcast. New competition produces new ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing what Fox cooks up for us.

VAN SICKLE: I’ll be surprised if Fox does anything too different. They’re going to be scrambling to put together a crew for that first Open telecast, not sure how much time they’ll have to innovate. One thing Fox has done in the past in other sports, though, is better graphics.

SENS: Battling golf robots to open broadcasts. Bikini-clad sign girls. Any player who sprays one wildly toward the political left penalized 15 strokes.

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.