NEWPORT, Wales — Some people call him El Tigre, but Tiger Woods was more like El Matador when he met with members of the media Tuesday afternoon before the Ryder Cup. They asked a question, he waved his cape and never came close to answering it or, in most cases, even addressing it.
Given that the Ryder Cup figures to be a week of tabloid hell for Woods, and considering his history of boring press conferences and indirect answers, it’s not surprising. On Tuesday, he looked like the Heisman Trophy, verbally stiff-arming the media.
He said only two somewhat notable things, about Rory McIlroy and Sean Foley. The 21-year old McIlroy, from Northern Ireland and playing on his first Ryder Cup team, said six weeks ago that he “would love to face” Woods in singles. When Woods was asked about the remark, he replied simply, “Me, too.” Asked if he cared to elaborate, Woods answered, “No.”
Make a note. If Corey Pavin can figure out where Colin Montgomerie is going to put McIlroy in the singles lineup, he’s going to put Tiger against him. Reading between the lines, it sounds like Tiger wants a piece of young Rory.
Also, Woods said he spent time working with Foley, his new instructor, early last week and also on the weekend. “I have an understanding of what he was trying to teach, and now it’s just a matter of getting reps,” Woods said. “The biggest thing is understanding the fixes. Out on the course today, I hit some bad ones, but I automatically knew what the fix was.”
Beyond those remarks, his game face was on, which could be a good sign for the U.S. It’s only Tuesday and Woods was already into the competition — against his questioners.
A European Tour media official tried to break the ice by welcoming Tiger back to team golf and asking if Tiger’s competitive juices were flowing again after missing the ’08 Ryder Cup.
“Well, we played team golf last year in the Presidents Cup,” Woods said. “It’s good to be back here. It’s obviously been four years for me. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Woods was also asked about the Twenty Ten Course, site of this week’s matches, and he expertly said nothing: “It’s going to be a little bit tricky in the sense of the weather coming in… It’s going to be pretty fluid in how the course is going to be set up… So it will be a good week.”
There’s some detailed course description. But he did leak the news that it’s supposed to rain this week. That’s a shocker here on Mud Island.
Several reporters asked a variation of this question: After a difficult year, is the Ryder Cup more important to you this year?
Tiger’s non-answers, in chronological order: “It’s always exciting to make the team. It’s great to be a part of it. I tried to make the team on points; didn’t occur and was lucky enough to get a pick. And here I am… It would be great to get a win and I’m looking forward to contributing and hopefully getting some points… It always has special significance. Each and every year, we get to play on teams. They’re fun to be a part of. Once you leave college, you don’t get to do that very often. It’s awfully fun.”
Asked if he expected to be paired with Steve Stricker, a combination that worked well at last year’s President’s Cup, Tiger said: “I have a one out of 11 [chance], so we’ll see. Do you think I’m going to tell you that? [ Laughing.] Come on.”
Woods dodged several other pointed questions, notably one from a tabloid type who said that Tiger doesn’t win majors or tournaments anymore, is about to be deposed as No. 1 in the world and is an ordinary golfer now, so how does he approach the Ryder Cup? “I remember, you’re the same guy at the British Open who asked me that, too,” Woods said. “I hope you’re having a good week.”
Who’s having a good week so far? Tiger. He ran his media gantlet successfully without saying much of anything. From a team public-relations standpoint, it was Tiger’s first win of the week. Game face on.