Even Pacino has had his clunkers, so we're not going to start dismissing Tiger's acting because of this one performance, and you shouldn't either. Attention must be paid to the man's body of work in toto, the old Nike and Buick spots, the interviews with Ed Bradley of CBS (prehydrant) and Tom Rinaldi of ESPN (post). We all know that Tiger Woods is world class, has been since he Hello Worlded us at his pro debut. Still, it must be said: This last gig was a head-scratcher.
O.K., here goes: At Kiawah, Woods dabbled in some new material, and it was kind of weird, experimental and New Agey. We're not knocking it. We want to encourage his artistic growth. But that doesn't mean we're buying the postmortem act he trotted out at the PGA Championship.
Maybe you saw it. The main event, first major held in South Carolina, was all over except the shouting. (Rory's final birdie on 18 was coming up.) TW was wearing his Sunday costume. (The black pants, the red shirt.) He was standing on a small stage with the cameras rolling, and he was discussing the seven holes he had played on Saturday, the seven holes that turned his excellent comeback year (three big wins in big events on big courses) into a forgettable one (no majors). He had played the Saturday Seven in 32 shots, three over par, the day ending when the dark, low storm clouds moved in and the horn blew. A day and change later he stood in the sweet, junglelike Low-Country air and delivered this amazing four-word line: "I was too relaxed."
Once more, in full and with feeling: "I was too relaxed and tried to enjoy it. And that's not how I play. I play intense, full systems go. That cost me."
Whoa right there.
If you were watching him, on TV or in person, you saw something else. On 5, the first of Kiawah's nasty par-3s, you saw Tiger at his most intense. The wind was blowing off the Atlantic and across the green, left-to-right. The pin was far left, leaving all sorts of bail-out room right, which Tiger's playing partner, Vijay Singh, availed himself of with his languid, wind-drifted five-iron. It looked as if Woods was trying to hit a low, holding draw shot. Very classy and what you might expect from the golfer who remains—and here, as in other matters, we part with officialdom—the best player in the world. But this swing Woods made on 5, it was downright fierce. Relaxed it was not. It turned into a hard hook that finished short of the hole and way left of the green. He did well to make bogey.
You can read too much into any one thing in life, including this swing, but it looked as if Woods was trying to do too much with that one shot. It looked as if he was trying to win his 15th major on the 41st hole of a 72-hole tournament. The swing, and the thinking behind the swing, was full-systems-go in extreme.
You might wonder if the tee shot on 5 was a response to the very odd bogey he made on the par-4 4th, where he hit fans with his tee shot and his approach, chunked a chip and made one from 40 inches for a 5. (That kind of thing does not relax a man.)
Or was the swing on 5 a response to the lackluster weekend golf he played at the U.S. Open at Olympic in June and the British Open at Royal Lytham in July? Had he played on those two weekends as he played his weekend golf at Bay Hill and Memorial and Congressional, Tiger would have been looking for major No. 17 at Kiawah.