Tiger lets his game talk for him, and it's getting kind of old

Tiger lets his game talk for him, and it’s getting kind of old

Woods recently appeared in New York City for the release of his new video game.
Chuck Solomon/SI

Anybody catch Tiger Woods on the Dan Patrick Show this morning? Don’t worry, if you couldn’t rip yourself from Tic Tac Dough, you didn’t miss much. The most interesting thing Tiger divulged is his pet name for Derek Jeter: “Jeets.”

Here’s a typical exchange:

Dan Patrick: What part of fatherhood is better than you thought it was going to be?
Tiger Woods: True love.
DP: You know that she looks at you and — you know that…?
TW: Yeah, that’s it. Mmm-hmm.
DP: That’s good. That’s good.
TW: Mmm-hmm.

Throughout the spot, which Patrick only landed so Tiger could plug his new video game, Woods was curt and unrevealing — typical Tiger, in other words — and I’m not the only one who thought so.

“He purposefully goes out of his way to not give you great answers,” Patrick said on the air after the Woods interview, which was peppered with terse responses, dead air and about as much excitement as a crossword puzzle. “Tiger to me is the toughest interview in all sports. You can’t give Tiger a yes or no question because he will take the yes or no.”

And take them he did. It was easy to picture Woods at home on his couch as he spoke to Patrick, phone in one hand, PlayStation controller in the other, Sam on his lap, anything but the interview on his mind. He sounded distracted at best, disenchanted at worst, and wholly unengaged.

Still, Patrick should count himself lucky. He’s in the minority — one of just a handful of media types with enough clout and a big enough audience to get a one-on-one with Woods, if even for just a few lackluster minutes. And for that, Patrick should be grateful. He may not have gotten anything from Woods, but at least he got him.

Patrick contends that Woods’s guardedness dates to an interview Woods gave to GQ in 1997, in which Woods, thinking he was speaking off the record, made some distasteful jokes about African Americans. But the story ran with the jokes, and Woods caught hell. “I believe that changed Tiger Woods,” Patrick said.

Whatever the cause, it’s hard to refute that Woods has become less willing to draw back the curtains as his fame has increased. He’s the anti-Beckham. Just ask Dan Jenkins, the legendary sportswriter who has covered every golf great from Hogan to Nicklaus but apparently can’t get Woods to sit for an interview. (And Jenkins is a columnist at Golf Digest, which pays Woods to talk.)

“My fee for talking to Tiger Woods is going up every day,” Jenkins told the golf blogger Geoff Shackelford earlier this year. “I’ve tried for 10 years to get a one-on-one with him — and can’t. Why? Because Mark Steinberg [Woods’s agent] says, ‘We have nothing to gain.'”

Therein lies the problem. Woods and his powerbrokers will never have anything to gain because they already have it all. Money, prestige, immeasurable influence. Sure, Woods makes himself available to the media. But show me a press conference called by Woods’s people, and I’ll show you a foundation event, course design or video game that Woods is trying to promote.

Even during tournament press conferences Woods is calculatingly dull. He’ll dutifully run through his scorecard and give you his take on the course setup, but don’t expect any searing insights or self-analysis.

After the fourth round of this year’s U.S. Open, arguably Woods’s greatest-ever round, he limped into the interview room to face a packed house of writers hungry for answers. Yet he revealed little about the condition of his knee or how he orchestrated the impossible. He looked bored. And then he was hit with this doozy, designed to tug at his heartstrings:

“You’re now a father these days playing on Father’s Day,” a writer began. “Given the knee, years from now when your daughter is old enough to understand, regardless of tomorrow, what do you want her to know about what you did this week considering the knee?

Woods’s response: “I got a W.”