Tiger Woods: “The losses aren’t what they used to be”

Tiger Woods by Keith Allison, on Flickr
Photo  by  Keith Allison 
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

“It hasn’t changed me in that regard, but I think it’s put a different perspective on things. Losing a parent and having the birth of two kids put things in better perspective for me. The wins are fantastic, but the losses aren’t what they used to be, because I get to talk to my kids at night. It makes things– it puts things in a proper perspective, for sure.”
That quote is from Tiger Woods’ press conference on Wednesday afternoon, a day before he tees it up at Crooked Stick for the BMW Championship. I’ve always thought Tiger’s reputation as being a non-feeling robot was a little overblown, but it’s no secret that he’s never been an open book. Tiger’s been in the national spotlight for over 30 years, and even though we feel like we know him, we really don’t. The scandal he went through publicly a few years ago is the biggest proof of that. I remember reading the reports of Tiger’s alleged infidelities, and thinking there was no way that the rumors were true. However, there are two things that we’ve always known about Tiger. He has an unrelenting drive and determination to win tournaments, and he hates losing. These two traits, along with his staggering level of talent, have made him the player and generational icon that he is, which is what makes the above quote so interesting.
He was asked if all of the stuff he’s gone through over the last couple of years, including the birth of his two children, had changed his desire to win tournaments and majors. I have no doubt that his appetite for success is still as voracious as ever. There’s no player in the sport who lives and dies in the moment, with every shot, every bit of leaderboard movement and every break, good or bad, like Tiger Woods. But there is something different about Tiger.
I’m not talking about the lack of majors this year, or his “poor” season as its been put by several members of the media, despite his three victories, which is more than anyone save for world number one Rory McIlroy, who has also won three times in 2012.
Tiger’s demeanor on the course has changed. When was the last time you saw Tiger converse with his playing partner throughout an entire round, or congratulate them on good shots? Both have happened in the last two weeks. He’s become good friends with McIlroy, the consensus best player in the world. When was the last time Tiger was friends with any of the guys who would seriously threaten his major title pursuits? The media is desperately trying and failing to turn the two men into rivals, feeling the need to compare and contrast them at every turn in a transparent attempt to bring page views and ratings. This isn’t Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh, both of whom have had serious tension with Tiger in the past. These guys legitimately like each other, and the only battles they’re going to have are going to be for tournament wins.
Let’s take a look back at this past Monday and the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Tiger is on the seventh hole, coming off of two birdies in three holes, cutting the lead of Louis Oosthuizen to four shots. Tiger drives his ball into the middle of the fairway, and when NBC cuts back to him, Tiger is talking to the group’s standard bearer, a young boy of no more than 14 years old. Tiger Woods, in contention in a final round, knowing he needs to post a number to catch two of the best in the world, and he’s talking to a volunteer? Never in a million years would I have expected to see that on my TV, but the weird thing is that he looked comfortable, almost like it was a practice round with no cameras. Tiger would go on to birdie the hole, moving closer to Oosthuizen and McIlroy.
Tiger is turning 37 years old this December. He’s seen more highs and lows than any of us likely ever will, and all of it has taken place out in the open for the whole world to see. He will win more tournaments, more majors. He will still be golf’s biggest drawing card. But, for the first time in his professional career, he has admitted publicly that winning a golf tournament isn’t the most important thing in his life. For a man who’s entire life has revolved around golf, it’s a stunning change in attitude.  Who knows if this is going to have a positive or negative impact on his game, but keep in mind that Tiger is in the midst of his best year since 2009. The one thing I do know is that as always with Tiger, it’s going to be fun to watch.

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