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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Captain Tom Knows His Players... It's the Media Who Don't

I guess this counts as one of my rants. For those of you who enjoy them, settle in.

For those of you who don't... tough. This is MY blog!

Tiger

Monday Tom Watson had a news conference about the Ryder Cup and maybe half the questions were about Tiger. And when Tom said he would be waiting to see what Tiger said about his health and game, the media was shocked! Can you trust Tiger? they asked. Tom simply said “Absolutely. I trust him inherently." But that wasn't enough for the media, and Tom had to state it even more directly.

Of course, Wednesday brought us Tiger's announcement that he had withdrawn himself from consideration for the team (as well as any other golf before the World Challenge in December -- remember, that supports his foundation so he hopes to play there) and had already contacted Tom Watson with the news (this quote is from the statement on tigerwoods.com):
I have already spoken to Tom [Watson] about the Ryder Cup, and while I greatly appreciate his thinking about me for a possible captain's pick, I took myself out of consideration. The U.S. team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best.
Tom tweeted that he hated it and praised Tiger for "taking the high road"... but I suspect he wanted to say "I told you so!" (I suspect he's also relieved that his news conferences will be about half as long from now on.)

When GC announced the announcement, most of the anchors seemed surprised. I bet that's going to be the common reaction among the media at most sports outlets. Let me explain.

The photo above came from myfox8.com (one of our local TV sites) last week, when they announced that Tiger told the Wyndham folks on Friday that he wouldn't be playing.

Wyndham tweet

Excuse me, but doesn't that say Tiger "...will shut it down to get healthy"? I realize that doesn't categorically state that he won't play anymore this year, but isn't "shut it down" a bit more emphatic than just "won't be playing this week"? Shouldn't this have given the media some clue that Tiger was considering his options?

Or is it just that the media has decided that they prefer the reckless Tiger of 2008 and refuse to accept anything else?

Do any of you remember when Tiger first emerged after the scandal? When he made his public apology and said he planned to change in many ways, not just his sex life? Remember how some of the media complained a mere two months later that Tiger hadn't changed at all? (As if someone could change every aspect in their life in a mere two months!)

Flash back two or three months to Tiger's return from back surgery and to the press conference. I wrote in a post that week:
Perhaps I missed something but in the presser I saw, Tiger was asked if he thought he could win. He replied, "The goal is always the same..." but then he grinned and added "...but it'll be a lot tougher this time." That sounds to me like someone who thought the question was unrealistic and answered it with a joke. But apparently Tiger isn't allowed to change OR to joke.
There's an old truism that says "If you haven't changed a major belief in the last five years, check your pulse. You may be dead."

Perhaps the media needs to check its pulse.

Clearly Tiger is changing. He's getting older and having to make adjustments to his game as well as his life. But the media seems to believe that if Tiger said something 15 years ago, he's not allowed to change it. (How well would you fare under those conditions?) Tiger always said he wouldn't play if he didn't think he could win... but that's back when he was young and did stupid things like defy doctor's orders and play 90 holes on a fractured leg. While I'm unwilling to make an absolute connection, that was the last major he won, wasn't it? He's struggled with injuries since.

But the media insists that Tiger either doesn't tell us the truth -- that is, that he no longer believes he can win -- or that he's deluded. They dissect his swing and tell him what he needs to do to fix it when it's clear he's not able to swing the club normally. In fact, more than a few analysts make it abundantly clear that unless Tiger does everything exactly as he did back in 2000 he'll NEVER break Jack's record. And Wednesday I heard analysts say that Tiger only played this summer because of the majors, that the Ryder Cup wasn't really an important consideration for him. (This despite Tiger's good friend John Cook saying that Tiger was extremely motivated to make the team and had played in an effort to get on it.)

As a side note, Michael Breed watched Tiger practice at the PGA last week and said Tiger was hitting it pure on the range, that he wasn't missing a shot, so his swing was apparently okay. But Tiger told the press that he was having trouble taking it to the course (when, among other things, video footage indicates that he's swinging much harder) and so Monday night Breed did a spot about why players have that problem. Ironically, even after Tiger's announcement Wednesday, I heard Paul Azinger on ESPN explaining how Tiger needed to change his swing despite the clear fact that his back still wasn't right. Isn't it even possible that his swing problems might be related to his back, folks?

It's clear that Tom Watson's view of Tiger's situation was different from the media's... and, as a result, they reasoned that he would choose Tiger because of the "pressure" to put Tiger on the team for TV ratings or whatever other reason they could come up with. And it's equally clear that the nine Ryder Cup team members wanted Tiger on the team as well... and it's hard for me to believe that was a popularity contest rather than a desire to win.

So I'm losing my faith in the media's ability to give me any accurate info about Tiger. I can't wait to see them backpedal once Tiger gets healthy and starts winning again with his... hmmm, this will be his fifth swing, won't it? ;-)

Okay, rant over. We now resume our regularly scheduled golf events... without Tiger. Even if the media can't understand why.

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