When Woods dissects how his friend Michael Jordan coped with eroding skills as he aged, he’s also telling us how he hopes to adapt his golf swing, after four knee surgeries, so that he can be a champion again.
When he celebrates the often-berated LeBron James, his words, surely, must reflect his own wishes: that he eventually be seen as a man capable of identifying and improving his weaknesses, ignoring criticism and prevailing.
“What he did in the finals is just absolutely amazing. Actually the whole year, people forget he was MVP. He showed every single facet of his game. Things he needed to work on versus last year showed up and they didn’t just show up, but they were dominant,” Woods said. You may have noticed the new Tiger isn’t trying for Most Popular Kid in Class anymore.
“I think we should all look at what he’s done,” Woods said of James. “It’s just fun to sit back and watch one of the greatest players ever to play.”
Woods never mentions his feelings about the grilling his private life has received. But his emotions peek out when he mentions talking with Wayne Gretzky about the changing 24/7 media cycle. “There are so many media platforms now that people are trying to get their voices heard,” Woods said, “and somehow screaming the loudest and critiquing the hardest is [a way] for people to actually know who’s saying something.”
Instead of stopping at Haters Will Hate, and hating back, Woods has gone a step further than many of us would; he tries to understand why.
Some subjects are still too fresh and raw for Woods to discuss candidly, or perhaps even face yet himself. Tied for the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, he completely crumbled on the weekend, shooting 75-73, including a 6-over-par collapse on the first six holes on Sunday.
Somewhere there is someone in golf who did not think it was a huge and obvious step backward for Woods in his pursuit of more major titles. Somewhere there’s a knowledgeable observer of the game who didn’t think it was a textbook crack under pressure by an athlete who wanted the prize too much to be able to function with precision and composure.
Shock of shocks, that person has been found and it’s Tiger. “I didn’t quite get everything out of my rounds. I was so close on Saturday,” said Woods. “Being off a fraction, certainly it showed up on Saturday and the beginning of Sunday for sure.”