Tiger Woods Set To Play At Bridgestone Invitational

Originally published on August 4, 2011 5:10 am
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Welcome to the program.

RON SIRAK: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what shape is Tiger in?

SIRAK: Well, we don't know. And you know, that's part of what you get with Tiger Woods, is they hold all their information pretty close to the chest. And we do know this. The last time we saw him, he had a ton of issues going on - physical issues with the left knee, technical issues with his swing, and emotional issues and that he's clearly still distracted from all that's gone on in his life and he's not 100 percent engaged in playing golf mentally.

INSKEEP: Can I just remember - how old is he now?

SIRAK: He's 35, be 36 in December.

INSKEEP: Which is...

SIRAK: It's an old 35.

INSKEEP: That's an age at which athletes are typically going downhill, although pro golfers can have another decade ahead of them at that point if they take care of themselves.

SIRAK: Yeah, well, he's been playing, though, on this sort of stage since he was - well, 21 is when he turned pro. And for six years before that he was on the world stage. So he's hit a lot of golf shots.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm glad that you mentioned that he's had not only physical problems but personal problems, because a lot of people will remember that - didn't he actually win a U.S. Open on a broken leg? I mean, this is a guy who can play hurt if he's in the right frame of mind to do so.

SIRAK: And I asked him, I said, how does this pain compare to what you were going through at Torrey Pines? And he said, oh, it's nowhere near the same. I had a broken leg then. Which raised the question, then why didn't you tough it out now? Which might give an indication of what his emotional state is.

INSKEEP: What did you make of Tiger's decision to drop his longtime caddie Steve Williams a few weeks back?

SIRAK: To me, it's more grasping at straws. It's more like how do I turn this around. And you see this - it's not just Tiger, a lot of players, most athletes, it's never their fault, it's always somebody else's fault.

INSKEEP: And is that the case with Tiger Woods?

SIRAK: I think that's probably what's going on right now. I mean, you know, look, think of the pure finances of what's going on his life right now. Since November 27, 2009, he's lost endorsement deals with Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, Gillette, General Motors and Tag Heuer. And he's replaced it with a TV spot for a muscle ointment in Japan.

INSKEEP: Is he as feared on the tour as he has been in past years?

SIRAK: And here's something else that's going on, Steve. There's a generation of golfers coming out there now, like the Rory McIlroys, who's 22 years old, who haven't had a decade of scar tissue build up around their confidence by Tiger Woods. There's a whole generation out there - I would say the Sergio Garcias, Adam Scotts, all these guys in their 30s, who for 12, 13 years have been getting wiped out by Tiger. These younger players haven't had that experience.

INSKEEP: Let's remember. How many major championships has he won?

SIRAK: He's won 14. The record for professional majors is 18 by Jack Nicklaus. If you had asked me in April of 2008 would Tiger break that record, I'd have said he's going right to 25. Right now it looks difficult, if not unlikely, for him to get there.

INSKEEP: Ron Sirak of Golf Digest. Thanks very much.

SIRAK: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.