Octogenarian inductees Dan Jenkins and Peter Alliss gave a provocative press conference in advance of yesterday evening’s Word Golf Hall of Fame ceremony.
Segueing between half-jokes, half-truths and familiar anecdotes like a well-rehearsed vaudeville duo, the pair riffed on everything from the Ryder Cup to belly putters, never once losing momentum.
The strongest words of the event, however, were reserved for a brief discussion of former world No1 Tiger Woods.
Though an early question prompted Alliss to lament contemporary “keyhole journalism” – a sympathetic, if oblique, reference to the 36-year-old’s tabloid omnipresence – the pair were inclined to be less forgiving of his golf game.
For Jenkins, whose willingness to criticise to the 14-time major winner has at times proven controversial, Woods’ resolve has yet to survive the pressure of a Sunday afternoon challenge.
“But if you’re a competitor, if you’re a great athlete, you can move from one era to the other because you’re still people, and it just depends on‑‑ the thing I’ve always thought, and I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but everybody wants to win and everybody says they want to win, but the great champions are those who absolutely despise the idea of losing, and I think that’s what Ben Hogan had. I think that’s what Arnold had. Jack certainly had it.
“I frankly don’t know that Tiger Woods has it or not because he’s never had to come from behind. Every major he won, he was in front, and everybody else, most of them dropped dead. So we’ll see.”
Bolstering what could be considered an illogical – or at best counterintuitive – line of criticism, the Fort Worth native later offered a more compassionate assessment of Woods’ technical proficiency and occasionally fraught relationship with Canadian swing coach Sean Foley.
“Back to Tiger for a minute, it’s going to be a great story if he does win a major because he’ll be the first guy that ever did it with three golf swings. It’ll be a great story for all of us. We had Oliver Moody do it with a cross‑handed putting stroke and we had Keegan Bradley do it with the belly putter last year. We had Hale Irwin do it with contacts, as I recall, contact lenses. But a guy has never done it with three golf swings. “
Echoing his colleague’s assessment, Alliss ventured as far as to suggest Woods was “gone”, lost in a maze of aimless practice and insecurity.
“And for somebody who can play and did play, he hit a few wild shots, but he was Gulliver in a land of Lilliputians. He didn’t have one real [challenger] for 10 years.
“He didn’t have a real chaser, a real competitor. He dominated everyone. He frightened everybody. Then he gets into this trouble with the ladies, and seemingly he loses it, and then he has to start again.
“Last year’s Masters… we were sitting at the end of the new practice ground at Augusta, and there 50 yards away is Tiger Woods at the green nearest the television facility being shown how to chip. You must do it this way, this way. And I said to Arnold [Palmer], are we seeing [this]? He was the greatest chipper in the world for a period, and this guy is teaching – no, don’t do it that way. It’s like Pavarotti saying ‘I’m fed up being a tenor; I think I’m going to sing as a baritone.'”
The pair were, of course, speaking in the wake of Woods’ lacklustre performance at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina.