April 5 2011
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
AUGUSTA, GA. -- Tiger Woods has always been a master at talking a lot but saying very little.
And with apologies to Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson, When you're arguably the most recognized athlete in the world, such hesitancy is totally understandable.
So it may have been fitting that his most revealing moments on Tuesday during his pre-tournament interview at the Masters came when he coyly nodded his head and spoke in monosyllables.
So do you feel ready to win? "Mm-hmm."
What part of your game is ready? "Everything."
Do you still believe that you will break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors? "Mm-hmm."
Yes, Woods is no longer the darling of bookmakers from Las Vegas to London on the eve of the Masters, a tournament that he has won four times.
After all, he's changing his swing for the third time now and he hasn't won a PGA TOUR event in 18 months. And Woods hasn't won at Augusta National since he beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff in 2005.
But golf tournaments aren't won on paper -- or at the betting windows at Ladbrokes or the Bellagio. Woods is totally unconcerned that people are all but writing him off.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "You still have to play the golf tournament, right? We all have an opportunity. Everyone has the same opportunity as I do and always has been. SO just got to go out there and play and see where it adds up."
Even so, some of his peers have publicly said Woods' aura of invincibility is gone.
Rory McIlroy said in a recent essay for Sports Illustrated that Woods is playing like an "ordinary golfer." The ever-candid Ian Poulter created a stir earlier this week when he suggested that Woods wouldn't finish in the top five at the Masters.
Woods is unconcerned.
"My whole idea is to try to win the golf tournament and that's what I'm trying to do," Woods said. "My whole idea is to prepare. I've prepared all year to peak four times a year and that has not changed, and that's what I'm trying to do."
A year ago, Woods tied for fourth at the Masters -- one of five finishes of sixth or better he's had at Augusta National since his last victory. The tournament was his first of a 2010 season that was rocked by personal turmoil.
"Last year was last year and this year is this year," Woods said firmly. "I have the same opportunity as everybody else has, as I said earlier. My main focus is to get ready and be prepared and come the first tee shot, be all cylinders go.
"As far as being a better person I try to do that each and every day. That will and always will be the case."
As far as the golfer is concerned, Woods was asked if we'd seen the best of him. Again, the monosyllables took over. "No," Woods said. But is that a dangerous statement to make?
“Well, I believe in myself," he said. "There's nothing wrong with believing in myself. God, I hope you guys feel the same way about yourselves. You know, that's the whole idea, is that you can always become better."