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Time to cut Tiger Woods some slack and hope latest comeback comes off | Ewan Murray


Press conferences will not define the career of Tiger Woods save, perhaps, the reference point provided by “Hello world” on the eve of his professional debut in 1996. For so many years thereafter, appearances by Woods before the media felt like an ordeal. Great moments arrived inside ropes, not via soundbite.

That tetchiness has long since evaporated. The latter stages of Woods’s career have witnessed a more relatable and amenable side. Even if, it must be said, the 15-times major winner never has any apparent interest in being a journalist’s friend. Woods is just willing or able to play the game a little better than before.

Tuesday in the Bahamas was significant on the simple basis that Woods was facing questions for the first time since he cheated death on a February morning in California. There was a widespread expectation Woods would never play competitive golf again. Instead, in the latest remarkable chapter of a career less ordinary, the 45-year-old is eyeing a comeback.

It may well come alongside his son, Charlie, in Orlando later this month. There would be a legitimate fear that Woods does not know when to stop had he not won the 2019 Masters, two years after he had been plastered all over news channels when dishevelled and disorientated at the time of a DUI arrest.

At Albany in late 2017, Woods insisted he had never watched that infamous footage. On the same site, four years on, Woods explained how he deliberately avoided coverage of his car crash when confined to a hospital bed. It seems a form of coping mechanism for one so famous, whereby nobody else’s perspective matters.

Woods spoke for close to 40 minutes – a marathon, in context – but no sooner had cameras shut off than tittering began around the one subject the golfer had no desire to address. Namely: what precisely happened on 23 February on Hawthorne Boulevard. Woods curtly referred a questioner towards the police report. Subject closed.

The trouble for anybody looking to piece together events is the lack of clarity provided by the authorities. Woods, who was travelling at more than 80mph in a 45mph zone, hit a central reservation before crossing two oncoming lanes and uprooting a tree. Despite being in Los Angeles, he believed he was in Florida when first interviewed by police. Woods was not subject to any charge or sanction. Beyond that, we have been left to draw our own conclusions; detectives cited “privacy issues” when refusing to release further information. Woods had looked out of sorts when interviewed on television the afternoon before the crash, adding to the whispers.

And yet the notion that the world somehow has to know the intricacies of what took place is both ludicrous and ghoulish. Crucially – and via good fortune – nobody else was hurt or affected by what occurred with Woods’s SUV. If Woods has no wish to publicly elaborate on a horrendous, near-death experience then it seems strange that there would be a demand for anything else. Still there was the whiff of fury as keyboard warriors demanded to know the ins and outs of a serious road incident.

Incredible talent with a golf club in hand should not spare anybody behavioural assessment. However, there is a line at which Woods’s achievement and sporting contribution should afford him at least some leeway. Scraping through the wreckage of a car smash, literally, as he looks to prolong tournament involvement serves no real purpose.

Woods is well aware that he lives his life under a glare not afforded to many others. It has been this way, after all, since his childhood. No one can reach Woods’s status without camera time. Still, there has been the occasional inference that Woods would trade a lot for even a touch of invisibility. Personal and professional struggles have played out under intense focus.

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Woods’s impressive foundation will benefit hugely from the latest staging of the Hero World Challenge here. His very presence at Albany, including to hit range shots, created a buzz among the leading players in the game, many of whom now class Woods as a close friend.

Intrigue around one of the most fascinating sporting figures is perfectly fair. Grasping for minutiae around an accident which left two children fearing they might never see their father again, though, feels a tasteless step too far.



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