At long last, Tiger Woods has given a one-on-one sit-down interview with the great Lorne Rubenstein, which is published as a Q&A on Time’s website. It sounds like Rubenstein was given the kind of access to the 14-time major champion that is somewhat unprecedented (at least in recent history), and as a result, Woods seemingly comes across as a sympathetic figure.
Obviously, there are times where I can’t help but be a little cynical and think he’s not telling the full truth, but the parts where he talks about his kids and his painful battle playing through injuries are absolutely gut-wrenching (it also corroborates much of what I read between the lines and wrote about following his press conference at the Hero World Challenge).
Here are some highlights with some bits of commentary:
Do you watch golf?
I can’t remember the last time I watched golf. I can’t stand it. Unless one of my friends has a chance to win, then I like watching it. I watched Jason [Day] win the PGA. But it was on mute. It’s always on mute and I have some other game on another TV.
OK, let’s be real, Tiger can’t stay away from watching golf, but I understand the sentiment that he “can’t stand it.” At the same time, if you know anything about Woods it’shttp://www.weiunderpar.com/?p=43712 that he might not want to, but he’s also a glutton for punishment. Plus, he needs to take a break at some point from playing video games.
Do you have any recovery goals? With past injuries, you have.
Absolutely. But this one, I can’t. There’s no timetable. And that’s a hard mind-set to go through. Because I’ve always been a goal setter. Now I had to rethink it, and say, O.K., my goal is to do nothing today. For a guy who likes to work, that’s a hard concept for me to understand. I’ve learned a little bit of it, I think. I know that, one, I don’t want to have another procedure. And two, even if I don’t come back and I don’t play again, I still want to have a quality of life with my kids. I started to lose that with the other surgeries.
Sounds familiar. Refer to this post.
Because you couldn’t do things with them?
I’ll never forget when I really hurt my back and it was close to being done, I was practicing out back at my house. I hit a flop shot over the bunker, and it just hit the nerve. And I was down. I didn’t bring my cell phone. I was out there practicing and I end up on the ground and I couldn’t call anybody and I couldn’t move. Well, thank God my daughter’s a daddy’s girl and she always wants to hang out. She came out and said, “Daddy, what are you doing lying on the ground?” I said, “Sam, thank goodness you’re here. Can you go tell the guys inside to try and get the cart out, to help me back up?” She says, “What’s wrong?” I said, “My back’s not doing very good.” She says, “Again?” I say, “Yes, again, Sam. Can you please go get those guys?”
OK, not going to lie — it started to get a little dusty in here…
What’s it like when you contemplate the possibility that you’re not going to be able to play again?
Anyone I’ve ever talked to who has had procedures like I’ve had, they say the same thing: you don’t know. With a joint, you know. With a nerve, you just don’t know. I’ve talked to Peyton [Manning] about his neck and what he’s going through. It’s tough as athletes, when you just don’t know. The most important thing, though, is that I get to have a life with my kids. That’s more important than golf. I’ve come to realize that now.
As we’ve suspected in recent years, his priorities have shifted away from golf and he’s more concerned with being a parent (understandably so).
Are you saying that if it did all end because of your injuries, you’re not so uptight about it?
Put it this way. It’s not what I want to have happen, and it’s not what I’m planning on having happen. But if it does, it does. I’ve reconciled myself to it. It’s more important for me to be with my kids. I don’t know how I could live with myself not being able to participate in my kids’ lives like that. That to me is special. Now I know what my dad felt like when we’d go out there and play nine holes in the dark.
Yep, he’s come to terms with not catching Jack’s all-time career majors record. That’s not easy and I suspect it’s been a five-year process.
How do you feel about the way the media have covered you?
There’s no accountability in what they say. And what they say, it’s like it’s gospel, there’s no source behind it. Nothing like, yeah, I talked to X number of players, I talked to this player, this player, this player. It’s none of that. It’s just, some of the announcers, they don’t even go on the golf course. And they look at a pin sheet from the booth, but they’ve never surveyed the golf course, even though the television coverage doesn’t come on until the afternoon. You have all that time to go walk the golf course, to see some of the early rounds, see what guys are doing, how they’re hitting it, how’s the course playing, is the wind coming up? All those different things that you could do. The only one who does that is Finchy [golf broadcaster and former PGA Tour pro Ian Baker-Finch].
WHAT ABOUT NOTAH??? Okay, to be fair, Tiger is speculating about how the media does its job — kind of like how Woods is saying the media speculates about him trying to do his.
How do you handle the speculation about you?
One, you don’t listen to it. And two, in today’s world, you don’t go online.
Nick Price told me years ago that it’s much different for you than it was for him when it comes to media attention. There weren’t nearly as many outlets back then. And no matter what you shoot, people want to talk to you.
Uh-huh. I went through a stretch, I think it was eight years ago, where I never missed a post-round interview. And the first time I did, they crucified me. I said, Realize I’ve done this for almost a decade. No matter what I shot, I always did a post-round interview. I did that for like eight years in a row, every round I played in, and when I don’t do it, they just killed me for it. I go, O.K., guys, put it in perspective here. How many guys get a pass for shooting a bad round?
To be fair, I think we, the media, have given Tiger plenty of passes in recent years because we do, indeed, realize that he does more media than *anyone* else in the game. (However, he’s right with regard that he doesn’t get as many “passes” as someone like, say, Phil Mickelson does — who skips media obligations alllllll the time.)
How would you characterize your relationship with the media over the years?
I have a lot of good friends in the media. Guys I’ve gone out to dinner with on countless occasions. With respect. There’s also a flip side of people that I really don’t care for. Hey, they made their career being negative and being outlandish. They’ve made a career out of it. But that’s their take. They’ve almost created a character, per se.
Excuse me, I almost wet my pants from laughing so hard. I’d like him to name his “good” friends he’s gone to dinner with “countless” times. And no, Notah Begay or anyone not in print media or on his pay roll do not count.
You were at the center of the public eye when your private life was exposed in 2009. What would you have done differently before and after?
In hindsight, it’s not how I would change 2009 and how it all came about. It would be having a more open, honest relationship with my ex-wife. Having the relationship that I have now with her is fantastic. She’s one of my best friends. We’re able to pick up the phone, and we talk to each other all the time. We both know that the most important things in our lives are our kids. I wish I would have known that back then.
Very mature. Sounds like he’s learned and grown a lot from his mistakes six years ago.
It’s always been said that one of the things that has driven you is Jack’s 18 majors. [Jack Nicklaus set the career record for major victories between 1962 and 1986.] If your career stopped now, that’s obviously out of the question.
I don’t want it to happen. Without a doubt. I do not. With all my heart, I do not want to stop playing golf. But the flip side is, my kids’ lives are much more important to me. Now, if I can do both, that is an ideal world. It’s a win-win. If I can only do one, it wouldn’t be golf. It would be my kids. That’s still a win-win.
Yep, he’s over catching Jack, or at least he’s reconciled with the fact that his physical limitations will prevent him from achieving the major goal.
You sound like you’re not driven as much by records as we might think. Yet you had Jack’s 18 majors on your bedroom wall as a kid. Is there a misconception about what drives you?
O.K., here’s the major misconception that people have all gotten wrong. It’s what was posted on my wall, about Jack’s records. It was not the majors, O.K.. There was one on there. It was the first time he broke 40, the first time he broke 80, the first golf tournament he ever won, first time he ever won the state amateur, first time he won the U.S. Amateur, and the first time he won the U.S. Open. That was it. That was the list. It was all age-related. To me, that was important. This guy’s the best out there and the best of all time. If I can beat each age that he did it, then I have a chance at being the best.
What is the ultimate criterion for deciding on who is the best ever?
You can’t compare eras. You really can’t. It’s like, O.K., who’s the better [pro basketball] center: Bill Russell or Shaq? You just can’t say who was the best because the game has changed so much. Jack crossed so many eras because he played for so long, and he was in contention for so long. The same could be said for Sam Snead. How many eras did he play through? He ended up winning, what, at 54, when he won at Greensboro? I think you have to be able to say you’ve played in so many different eras, and I have. Most of my friends are on the senior tour now, the guys I grew up playing with, my compatriots.
That’s more than fair. I still consider Tiger to be the best golfer the universe has ever seen — even if he doesn’t win 18 majors (which in all likeliness, he won’t).
Did you ever consider, I can’t do it?
No, no. First of all, I didn’t want to show anybody that I was hurt. You never want to show your competitors that you’re hurt. I don’t want them to get that mental edge, Oh, he’s down. You always pick yourself right back up. That’s what I’ve tried to do my entire career: not show that I am hurt. Play through it.
I believe that he’s played through immense amounts of pain — more than most people can fathom.
Those were the years nobody thought you would miss a putt. You’ve not putted as well in recent years.
Well, here’s the deal. When my back was bad, anytime I bent over, my whole upper body and neck would start to cramp up, and so, putting was the most painful, and so I never practiced it. It hurt too much. It’s just a matter of getting healthy enough to where I can do that again. Because I know I can putt. I proved that to myself this year that I can still putt. I haven’t lost my nerves. My hands don’t shake. I don’t feel any of those sensations, unless my back was acting up. But then bending over would cause my neck to go, and eventually other parts of my body would start to go.
I feel his pain. That’s 100% truth.
What about in chipping, and those little shots you’ve missed or chunked?
That was a total technique, shifting away from [former swing coach Sean Foley’s] motion to going back to our older motion. It was completely different, what Sean teaches and what I was trying to go back to are polar 180.
Wait, did he just throw Foley under the bus?
Naturally, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the full interview carefully and slowly. There’s so much more interesting and intriguing content and I feel like I almost copy and pasted way too much.
From the sounds of it — as it did following his presser at the Hero World Challenge — it appears Woods is starting to give his version of a farewell tour.