DUBLIN, Ohio — Almost two weeks before he’ll play it with a U.S. Open on the line, Tiger Woods tested his game at The Olympic Club on Tuesday.
Then, he sat down on a comfy red couch and mingled with a group of hand-picked fans in an online chat that touched on everything from if he can regain his winning ways to whether he’s still having fun playing golf.
“We’re excited about what we’re working on. I hadn’t played well in a couple of weeks but we know what it is,” Woods said of problems in his swing that have been addressed by him and swing coach Sean Foley. “It’s a matter of getting reps in and getting the trust in it.”
Woods took questions from several fans including a sergeant with the Ohio National Guard, Olympic triple-jump hopeful Erica McLain and others. NBC golf analyst Roger Maltbie also participated in the 34-minute chat — called a “hangout.”
Woods practiced at Olympic earlier in the day. He said he hit a 9-iron into one green on the Lake Course that bounced flag high.
“It’s going to be one heck of a test,” Woods said.
After playing in temperatures in the 40s, Woods — wearing a black cap and black sweater with a blue shirt peeking through at the collar — went on a webcam for his close-up.
Woods has won 14 majors, but none since the 2008 U.S. Open. He was headed Tuesday evening for the Memorial, founded by Jack Nicklaus, who won a record 18 majors. That remains Woods’ ultimate goal.
“I figure it’s going to take a career,” Woods said. “It took Jack 24 years. This is my 17th year into it. I still feel like I’ve got plenty of time. It’s about giving myself the most amount of opportunities to win them on the back nine on Sunday. The more chances I give myself, I figure I’m going to clip a few of them.”
There were few if any revelations in the chat. This is the second time this year that Woods has not met with reporters at a tournament but instead reached out to friends and fans online.
Speaking after a practice round at the Memorial, Masters champion Bubba Watson was asked if he would consider going online to reach out to his biggest fans.
“Tiger’s online chat? I actually think it’s neat. I can see that working out for me,” he said. “Again, I don’t come to the media center as much as he does, so I still like this. I feel cool up here. Yeah, I could see doing something like that, but I’d still come to the local media and talk here. He does it every week no matter how he plays, so it’s still new to me.”
Watson has been besieged by requests from sponsors, tournaments, media and others since his dramatic win in April at Augusta National. He said he’s just learning now what it’s like to be in such demand.
“I’ve got a lot more friends than I used to have,” he said with a wide grin. “I wasn’t very popular before, but now I’ve gotten a lot more popular.”
Questions on Woods’ website ranged from who he looked up to the most as a kid to why he didn’t recapture some of his old championship magic by switching from Foley back to former swing coach Butch Harmon.
Mixed in were some responses from awed fans.
“No questions,” wrote NateDogg8896. “Just wanted to say you’re the most amazing person on the planet.”
Another poster wondered why Woods is now wearing white golf shoes so often.
After winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March, Woods came into the Masters as a favorite. He finished tied for 40th there, missed the cut at the Wells Fargo and then tied for 40th again at The Players two weeks ago.
Woods said he still has fun playing golf, despite the meltdown he had during the Masters that included kicking a club and swearing.
“I love competing, mixing it up with the guys, trying to beat all of them,” Woods said. “That’s the rush, that’s the fun. Obviously it’s a lot more fun when you’re winning than when you’re 40th. That’s something I’m still working on.”