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Is Tiger’s Comeback Real?

His personal foul-ups and physical ailments slowed the recovery of his golf game, but his Bay Hill win shows he is regaining his touch
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
The Brains Behind Homeland, May/June 2012

(continued from page 3)

And there are those little things that Couples remembers.

“I’ve heard him say he can’t play somewhere because he has his kids that week. I know he tries to spend as much time with them as he can. He works so much on his game and he’s got these sponsor obligations, that maybe he doesn’t have a lot of time for people, but I know he makes time for his kids and maybe now, you know, he makes time for other people. He’s got buddies, but he doesn’t have a 100 of them.”

And Couples remembers, too, those times in Australia when he and his assistants, late from a meeting, found Woods waiting for them like any old soul at the elevator bay. “It sounds stupid, but we were late a couple of times and he hung out at the elevator a couple of times instead of going to the restaurant and saying I’m going to eat and just get going,” says Couples. “He’s a social person, but of course not many people really get a chance to see that.”

All of this is not to say that Woods still isn’t highly protective and at times petulant. When excerpts of former coach Hank Haney’s book were published in Golf Digest at the start of the year (The Big Miss was to come out just before the Masters), Woods reacted by portraying Haney as only out for money. Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg portrayed the book as “armchair
psychology” and as a betrayal of the coach-student relationship.

The published revelations were rather mild, the most interesting fact that Haney believed that Woods, at the top of his career, was considering going into the military after doing special-ops training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. None of the published excerpts dealt with Woods’ personal life, his infidelity scandal and divorce. When questioned at the Honda Classic about this assertion from Haney that he wanted to join the military, Woods turned cold and unresponsive. Though when asked to comment in 2010 about a passage in Tom Callahan’s book My Father’s Son about following his father into the military, Woods had responded: “Well, I always wanted to become a Navy SEAL. That’s something I told my dad from the very get-go—either I’m going to become a professional golfer or I’m going to go became a Navy SEAL.”

It should be noted that at the time Woods accused Haney of money grubbing, he was about to play in Abu Dhabi where his appearance fee was said to be $1,500,000, and previous sortees to the Dubai World Championship had come with hefty guarantees said to be as much as $3,000,000, which is what he got as an appearance fee for his last victory at the Australian Masters.

We get to see Woods, the professional, in broad daylight. We get to see Woods the person in snippets. It’s easier to assess the differences in Tiger 1.0 and Tiger 2.0 as a player because results are definitive. But we rely on only hints and tidbits about his personal life. Sort of like this.

At Pebble Beach he was asked if he was feeling his age. “Yeah, there’s no doubt. It is what it is,” said Woods. “I don’t recover quite as well. I know that I’m sore quite often, just every day when I’m playing with my kids. They’re not very tall yet, and bending down there and playing with them and building things and doing all those things, that’s pretty low to the ground, so I do get sore. Something I don’t remember every being like that.”

He also brought up his kids when asked if golf was more fun again after two years of personal turmoil. “I think it’s more fun now than it used to be because now my kids are becoming an age where they want to see Daddy on TV,” says Woods.

“Daddy, you’re going to a golf tournament, are you going to be on TV? And I say, Well I have to play well. ‘Well, Daddy, can you please play well?’ ”

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