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Woods a picture of relief after media grilling in Scotland

Last updated on: July 13, 2010 20:32 IST

Woods's grilled by UK media



The joyless look in Tiger Woods' eyes said it all. It is one thing for the fallen hero to say he is trying to "become a better person" but convincing the media and public is another matter entirely.

At St Andrews on Tuesday, the most eagerly anticipated news conference the Old Course has hosted in years was packed to the rafters as Woods addressed the world's media for the first time on British soil since last year's tawdry revelations about his private life.

From the moment the World No 1 was ushered by his entourage into the press marquee via a side entrance - avoiding the gauntlet of the massed ranks of reporters, photographers and film crews - the game of cat and mouse had begun.

Wearing a grey sweater, black slacks and blue shirt, the greatest golfer of this or arguably any other era nervously sipped at a bottle of water, all too aware of the polite grilling he was about to endure.

Then a gulf as big as the Atlantic emerged among the press corps; the American journalists quizzing him on golf, the Europeans on his private life.

It is a measure of the spectacular, public unravelling of his life that the 14-times major winner is grilled not on his form or memories of St Andrews, where he has twice won British Opens, but on the impact a string of sexual dalliances has had on his approach on and off the course.

Image: Tiger Woods
Photographs: Reuters

Woods shies away from talking about his personal life

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This week Woods is attempting to become the first player to win three Opens at the home of golf, he is an overwhelming favourite with the bookies to win a fourth Claret Jug and is the man they all fear when the field gathers for Thursday's opening round.

But that was all a sideshow.

One reporter asked if he had fulfilled a self-imposed obligation to interact with the crowd more? "I have," he tersely deadpanned.

His close friend Mark O'Meara said autographs had always been an issue for Woods.

"That's always a thing he battles with," twice major winner O'Meara told Reuters. "If he signs two or three young people's autographs but he doesn't get to them all then he's not so good.

"He looks at it like 'It's not that I don't want to sign the autographs, it's that if I start going down that road, when do I draw the line'?"

Another reporter asked if Woods' divorce had come through? "I'm not going into that," he replied.

Did his changed public image affect his chances here? "It doesn't impact on it at all," said the World No 1.

Three times Woods repeated his mantra: "I'm just trying to be a better person".

Image: Tiger Woods signs autographs in St Andrews, Scotland

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'I would like to win no matter what'

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But get him talking about the Old Course and winning the Claret Jug and his face briefly lights up, reminding everyone of the billion dollar smile of the once-in-a-generation player Woods is.

The smile was greeted by a frantic flurry of camera shutters from the back of the room; a happy Woods a rarity in newspapers and magazines in recent months.

Whether a victory here would carry the American further down the road to redemption, for him, was irrelevant.

"I would like to win no matter what," he grinned. "It would be nice. To win here is certainly one of the bigger highlights I've ever had in my career because it is the home of golf.

"It's amazing how many great champions have won here and to be a part of that history is a pretty neat feeling."

His 40-minute ordeal over, Woods was a picture of relief as he left, a lone reporter applauding him before the consternation of the press pack brought the clapping to an abrupt halt.

Woods has little sympathy in the press room it seems and for all his public pronouncements about changing his approach, there also seems precious little away from the media.

"I guess I do a little bit," Spain's Sergio Garcia told Reuters when asked if he sympathised with Woods' predicament.

"But it's his problem, he got himself into it. He'll fix it and he'll be fine."

Love him, or loathe him, anyone who finishes ahead of Woods on Sunday night stands an outstanding chance of winning the 150th anniversary Open.

Image: Tiger Woods

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