JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Nobody ever doubted Tiger Woods’ intelligence. He didn’t get into Stanford simply because he could break par. A confrontation with Tiger in an interview room is as likely to end with the same result as one on the course. He wins.
Woods was primed and ready Wednesday for what turned out to be a less-than-revelatory session with the media before today’s start of the 93rd PGA Championship.
He knew the subject of the day — of the week — the way his ex-caddie, Steve Williams, had stuck it to Tiger. And as usual, Woods knew how to handle that subject with ease.
No retaliation from Tiger. No overt anger from Tiger. A raised eyebrow. A hint of a smile. After the disclosures of infidelity, after the divorce, after the knee and Achilles problems, you think Woods is looking for more trouble?
A month or so ago, Woods fired Williams, his caddie for the previous 12 years. Williams’ bitterness was emphasized Sunday when the man for whom he’s now working, Adam Scott, took the WGC Bridgestone tournament and Williams called it “the best win in my life.”
The message was clear. And stunning. Steve Williams, who almost never said anything to the media in his seasons with Woods, popping off. Asked if he were surprised by that, Tiger offered one word, “Yeah.”
But surprised or not, Tiger said he sent Williams a congratulatory text on the win and since has exchanged texts with Williams, although the content of the messages will not be told to the fourth estate.
“I was happy to see Stevie and Adam win,” said Woods. “Adam has been a friend of mine and the same with Stevie.”
Williams, on his website Wednesday, offered a sort of apology, contending his “emotions were running very high, and at the time I felt like my emotions poured out and got the better of me.”
They also got the better of the people with cameras and notepads, because the story gained a life of its own, all to the benefit of golf which is battling baseball and football for attention.
Tiger is back after three months, and that doesn’t hurt. Neither does a controversy involving his ex-caddie. Officials at Atlanta Athletic Club, where the PGA is being held, say when Woods announced he was playing, there was a rush for the remaining tickets.
Woods — who missed two majors this year, the U.S. and British Opens because of his injuries — had another sort of rush, one of anticipation.
“I hadn’t been able to practice,” Woods said. “In order to win, I had to be healthy. Now I can go, do the work, can go out and hit as many balls as I want.”
What Tiger doesn’t want is to respond to the implications of others, such as the interesting query by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, obviously alluding to the dispatching of Williams, on what loyalty means to Woods.
“You know,” Tiger responded after an aside, “obviously it’s trust earned over time, and I think that’s the only way I can define it.”
The only way to define Tiger Woods is to say he’s the man who makes golf what it is. Or isn’t.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHERE: Johns Creek, Ga.
COURSE: Atlanta Athletic Club, Highlands Course (7,467 yards, par 70)
TV: TNT (Today-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 8-11 a.m.) and CBS (Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
NOTES: David Hutsell won the PGA Professional National Championship in June at Hershey Country Club in Pennsylvania to top the 20 club pro qualifiers. Hutsell is the PGA director of instruction at The Elkridge Club in Baltimore. ... The 2012 tournament will be played at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.