What was Tiger Woods’ spiciest press conference take?
Sean Zak: Gents, I would like to start by congratulating Tiger Woods for actually saying something. A whole bunch of somethings! We’ve been to far too many Tiger press conferences where he didn’t give us much. But this felt revealing across a whole range of topics! His health, the health of the PGA Tour, the Official World Golf Ranking, Greg Norman, etc. James and Dylan, which Woods declaration stood out the most to you?
James Colgan: I agree, Sean: good on TW for being interesting (even if he was parroting talking points from his pal Rory). I was most interested by his criticism of the OWGR. Since when does Tiger believe it’s a “flawed system”? Wouldn’t he be, like, THE guy to help make it flawless?
Dylan Dethier: I’ll get to mine in a minute, but that OWGR comment was an interesting moment because, as James referenced, Tiger and Rory have been in lockstep on most things PGA Tour. In this case he echoed Jon Rahm instead, contrasting McIlroy’s praise for the system. And I think he and Rahm have a point! Small, elite fields don’t seem properly rated.
Zak: I said this on our recent Drop Zone podcast and I’ll say it again: Anyone crying about the world ranking right now needs to just wait six months. The new system needs time to bake in the oven while old points won back in 2020 are cast aside. It’ll look much better in May.
Dethier: As for my most interesting moment? I thought it was Woods’ shot at the players who have left for LIV. He said he respected and appreciated the honesty of some pros in explaining their motivation for leaving (read: $). But really didn’t like those who’d turned their back on “the Tour that helped them get to that point.” He described it as “a little bit on the tasteless side.” Those are some choice phrases — and some fighting words!
Colgan: Seany, what’d you think of his erhm, direct criticism of one Greg Norman?
Zak: I was pretty stunned, if for no other reason than Tiger has made a career of keeping his opponents’ names out his mouth. He has disliked Norman for a long time, but has rarely ever — okay, never — said so in such a forthright manner. “Greg needs to go” might become the new rallying cry for the pro-PGA Tour bunch. Rory said it, now Tiger said it. Justin Thomas is probably next, no?
Dethier: Tiger said it, and then he said it again, and then he quoted McIlroy as saying it, and then he said it again. That was actually the clearest message from Tiger’s presser: He wants Norman gone. What happens after this hypothetical resignation is less clear to me.
Colgan: You don’t talk about another man’s job!!! Or maybe you do, when that other dude is pretty openly trying to put you out of your current job. Either way, I was surprised by the forcefulness of Tiger’s message, if not the message itself. And if it is the new PGA Tour rallying cry, what happens if LIV listens?
Zak: That’s where this all gets interesting. Greg Norman led the LIV charge in the spring. Then, suddenly, at the first event he talked to ONE reporter in a pre-arranged interview. In the months since, he’s done interviews with LIV-friendly media and a virtual press conference with a select few media. He’s kinda been backing away for awhile! Other execs have definitely taken the baton on forward-facing opportunities.
I don’t think LIV will move Norman too far from where he currently sits, but I will offer this reminder: A meeting of the minds requires two-way participation, and Jay Monahan hasn’t gone halfway either. Plus, as Tiger so aptly reminded us Tuesday, such a meeting would likely require them to stop suing each other. So it feels like a moot point that everyone keeps talking about.
Dethier: It seems, so far, like a one-sided negotiation. Tiger and Rory and Rahm are insisting that LIV drop Norman as commissioner, but they hardly have LIV’s best interests in mind, so why should LIV listen? In a world where the goal is cooperation, they’re right. Norman isn’t the right fit. But LIV’s main goal may not be cooperation.
Colgan: While I’m inclined to agree that it’s *probably* all moot, I think it qualifies as interesting that Rory AND Tiger have now shown a willingness to work with LIV should they drop Norman and the lawsuits. What happened to “legacy, not leverage”?
Zak: I think the boys are all trying to extinguish the flames a bit. Rahm, Thomas, Woods, McIlroy, etc. are all probably a little tired of their sport being so … muddy. I think it’s a bit of a ploy to let the dust settle a bit, but LIV’s 2023 schedule is coming in the next few days so the dust ain’t settling.
Dethier: True; Tiger was intent on pinning the “animosity” of the moment on Norman rather than anyone on the Tour’s side. Now that I think about it, though, “animosity” could also be a word used to describe calling for a man’s job. I think Tiger and Rory are each attempting to speak softly and carry a big stick, but occasionally they may have it the other way around. In general, the Tour still seems to have the upper hand in most things besides money. Money’s a big one, though.
Zak: Should we address Tiger the golfer instead of Tiger the speaker?
Colgan: Good idea! Of course, we don’t know what we don’t know about the state of his game, and considering we haven’t seen him since July, we don’t know a lot about Tiger’s game. That said, it seems the biggest concern since his car accident has been his ability to walk 72 holes — a concern that ain’t getting any smaller now that he’s missing this week with plantar fasciitis.
Zak: Has homie been caddying too much!?!?
Colgan: Time to rest those calves!
Dethier: The consensus from Tiger and his team is that he spent the last few weeks stress-testing his body and even had some short-term success. His game was in much better shape than at the Open, for instance, and was shooting rounds in the mid-60s at home without issue. But ultimately he didn’t pass that stress test. When the only way to progress and prepare is to work out hard but your body then rejects that process, you’re in a bit of a pickle.
(Still, don’t count him out at golf-cart events like the Match nor the PNC…)
Colgan: I think the bigger issue — and one that Tiger pointed to in his presser Tuesday — is that the injuries he’s already sustained could beget more injuries. The plantar fasciitis is a result of the car accident, but that might only be the beginning of it. Considering we have concerns about his ability to walk 72 holes when there *aren’t* any additional injuries, should we be alarmed by this?
Zak: That’s what’s weird. We shouldn’t be alarmed. Tiger gave us an “I told you so” on Tuesday, reminding us that he wouldn’t be playing a full schedule moving forward. BUT, he also said that one year ago, he was only hopeful that he could play the British Open. That’s all he wanted 12 months ago. He ended up playing three whole months before then at the Masters. He grinded like hell to make the cut in May at the PGA Championship. He’s still going to do whatever he can to play the major championships. So, not surprised, but curious if he can even enjoy that schedule. Like does he enjoy 2023 if he plays three majors again? I don’t know. He’s not gonna stop caddying for Charlie. We might not realize we’re at the end of his road until we smash head first into that big R word.
Dethier: I couldn’t help but wondering for a moment today if Tiger has already retired and we just haven’t accepted it. Like, he’s walked into his boss’s office. He’s offered his resignation. And we’ve slid his letter back across the table. Not today, Tiger! No thanks!
He reiterated today that outside of the majors he’ll really only play “one or two” others and that’s all he’s shooting for. That’s not just a limited PGA Tour schedule. That’s not a schedule at all! The elevated events and the change he’s effected on Tour has been for the next generation, not for him.
(Though I think there are also days where he thinks he could get it done anywhere.)
Colgan: If YOU realized you had to spend a week outdoors in Rochester in May, you’d want to retire, too. (Kidding, I think.) But speaking of temperatures, this was a spicy Tiger Woods! Are we entering a new era of Tiger, the statesman?
Dethier: Yeah, kind of. But it doesn’t look like we’d thought it might. If “elder statesman” meant champions dinners and Masters par-3 contests for the previous generation, it means “tech-infused” arena golf and televised matches for Tiger and the gang. Fewer coats and ties in his immediate future than for a previous generation, I think.
Zak: No. This was a one-off spurred by the fact that we hadn’t heard from the guy since July. Tiger’s new business is a PGA Tour venture. He was merely speaking on LIV in much the same way he has this year. And if you look at the transcript, you’ll notice how much he was asked to consider hypotheticals of LIV and the PGA Tour working together. Tiger doesn’t go down that road. He leaves that for Rory and JT and Rahm. Which is fine! He’s an old man. But he’s definitely not going to be peacocking up on stage with regularity.
Colgan: I disagree. I think this chapter for Tiger is realizing his legacy is going to far outlast his on-course abilities, and I think part of understanding that is realizing the power of the pulpit. Tiger’s most influential venue isn’t Amen Corner anymore, it’s the lectern. That’s awesome! We’re not going to get a lot of it, because we probably won’t see a lot of him. But considering the environment in the sport, I think he realizes that it’s in his own interest to speak his mind with a bit more regularity.
Zak: Boy, we would welcome it! I did enjoy him being asked point-blank, would you ever consider trying to ride a cart during a PGA Tour event? Tiger said no and invoked memories of Casey Martin’s Americans with Disabilities Act case against the Tour. It felt like a random stray for Martin, but it puts to bed an altogether silly thing that kept finding my mentions on Twitter: JuSt LeT hIm RiDe A cArT! Note to all: it ain’t happening.
Colgan: Yeah, admittedly, I thought he could have broached that subject with a bit more tact, but the implication was very clear: there will be no Tiger-cart era on the PGA Tour. Something that’s much less clear, though, is when we’ll see Tiger in a competitive setting again. He’s said he expects to be ready to go for both of his next two appearances — the Match on 12/10 and the PNC Championship the following week — but what can we expect from him realistically in that setting?
Zak: Actually, this has me excited. Tiger’s biggest flex during his presser was none of the topics discussed above. It was when he said, “I can hit the golf ball. I can hit any shot you want. I just can’t walk.” Okay, you have my attention! Show us. Ride in a golf cart and hit every shot against JT and Spieth in the Match. Then ball out with 8-irons at the PNC. All this will do is inspire more hype for Tiger’s 2023, which is largely harmless. But fun!
Dethier: I think that’s right. Tiger is uniquely suited for Cart Golf Szn. His injury is a massive bummer for any actual PGA Tour event. But at the Match? At the PNC? Now we’re talking. Low floor, high ceiling. Nothing will surprise me. I refuse to be surprised. But the team of JT and Spieth may not be the lock we expected.
Colgan: I think for the first time in the Match’s history, we could be wishing it runs long. That counts for something…