The only questions Tiger Woods fielded before his next tournament came from his fans.
Instead of a news conference before this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, Woods answered 19 questions Monday in a 15-minute video posted on his website. The questions were submitted through Facebook and Twitter.
The timing of the decision was peculiar. Woods is coming off his worst performance ever at the Masters, a tie for 40th in which he finished 15 shots behind and was roundly criticized for kicking his 9-iron in disgust after a poor tee shot on the par-3 16th hole in the second round.
Woods typically speaks to the media before every tournament. This time, he will not speak to reporters until his first round Thursday at Quail Hollow.
His agent, Mark Steinberg, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. He earlier told The Charlotte Observer that Woods’ trading the traditional media for social media was not in response to the criticism he received at the Masters.
“The media will continue to have access to him,” Steinberg said. “This isn’t anything more than a couple of times a year to interact with the fans. They deserve that. This isn’t intended to make a statement. This is intended to be more inclusive. This isn’t a statement whatsoever. Some in the media might interpret it that way, but that’s not the intent.”
Among the questions he took for the video:
– Do you have a good chance of winning?
– Have you ever made an albatross?
– What was the difference between Bay Hill (where he won) and the Masters?
Fans were told that he would answer questions about his next two tournaments – Quail Hollow and The Players Championship – although Woods took the question about how his performance changed from Bay Hill and Augusta. Another question was what he had been working on with swing coach Sean Foley since the Masters.
“At the Masters, I was kind of struggling with my ball-striking a little bit,” he said. “Sean and I fixed it. It had to do with posture. My setup wasn’t quite right, as well as my takeaway. I just needed to do hundreds of reps. I’m getting dialed in.”
Woods, the biggest star in golf with 72 tour wins and 14 majors, has operated under a different set of rules than most other players. In a deal made years ago with the PGA Tour, he only comes to the media center for his pre-tournament news conference when he is the defending champion or is at a tournament for the first time or one he has not played in a long time. Woods always goes to the media center before tournaments at the majors.
This is believed to be the first time he has ever skipped his media obligations before the tournament.
Woods said he was excited to get back to competition, having taken a full week off after the Masters. He said he has changed his swing over the years to alleviate stress on his left knee, which has been operated on four times.
“Let’s end it at four,” he said. “Plus, I have two little ones to chase around.”
On other topics:
– He said he has made an albatross twice in his career, but not in competition. One was during a practice round at the Walker Cup in Wales in 1995, the other at Isleworth just two days after watching Mark O’Meara make a 2 on the par-5 seventh hole.
– His favorite trophy from the majors is the claret jug awarded the British Open champion.
– Of the next two tournaments, there were more questions about The Players Championship, especially the 70-foot birdie putt he made from the back of the island green on the par-3 17th in the third round of 2001, the only year he won at Sawgrass. Woods said he watched Fred Funk in the group ahead of him four-putt from about the same spot.
“I wasn’t trying to make it,” he said. “I was trying to get it close and not three-putt. I was trying not to lose a shot. I’ll take those accidents.”
As for the best putt he ever made on tour? Woods said it was par putt from just inside 4 feet on the final hole at the 1997 Masters, which he won by 12 shots with a record score of 270 for his first major.
“To set the record, all the history it meant at the time, to have my dad there at the back of the green,” he said. “By far it was the biggest.”
As for his chances of winning?
“I feel like I do, yes,” Woods said. “I feel like if I do the things that we’ve been working on, and get my posture and takeaway dialed in, then yes, I feel like I have a good chance. I’m going to a golf course I like in Charlotte. I’ve won there before. The very next week is a tournament that I’ve also won at. They’re two ball-striking events. You’ve got to hit the ball really well there at those two tournaments to give yourself a chance, and make a few putts at the same time. I’m looking forward to that.”