Oftentimes, a Tiger Woods press conference can feel scripted, formulaic and straightforward.
Until Tuesday at the U.S. Open.
The World No. 1 was even caught laughing.
It only took his niece, Cheyenne Woods, providing him a surprise by asking a question as a member of the media.
“The U.S. Open is usually one of the most grueling weeks of golf. So what would you do off the course in order to be at ease and relax?”
Woods did a double-take, laughed and provided an answer we aren’t used to hearing: “Didn’t expect that.”
“Tomorrow . . . is it 6:30 dinner? Is that all right? OK. Perfect.”
It was a quirky moment in a press conference that featured talk of his run-in with Sergio Garcia – and, no, Garcia has not apologized one-on-one: “We haven’t had time for that,” Woods said – to potential mud balls all over Merion’s sloppy course to his place among the game’s legends.
While he reminded everyone that there are two days before any tee ball will be put into the air, Woods is well aware of his five-year winless drought in majors. But he bristled at the thought that it is tougher now to prepare for a major than when winning golf’s biggest titles was a regularity.
“It wasn’t ever easy,” said Woods before reluctantly expanding on his answer.
“A lot of times, a lot of majors that I won were on either the first or second time I’d ever seen it. So that – it was never easy. The practice rounds are imperative. Doing scouting trips are very important, just like it is for this week. I came up here early. And getting a little feel for this golf course. I had to do all that stuff. But then I have to go out and execute and go out and win an event.”
Woods might have lucked out in his preparation, as he played a practice round at Merion on May 28 in the pouring rain. It allowed him the opportunity to see how far the ball will or will not travel, and to get used to his distances. Was he hoping it’d stay wet or dry out for normal U.S. Open-like conditions?
“Either one; the execution doesn’t change. You’ve still got to hit good shots and get the ball in play. Especially now with the rough being wet, it’s imperative to get the ball in play so that we can get after some of these flags and make as many birdies as we can,” said Woods.
Still in search of his 15th major title, Woods needs a U.S. Open victory at Merion to be listed alongside the likes of Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino. Although Woods would love to be associated with golf’s luminaries at Merion, he says he is driven by something different.
“I think I just enter events to win, and that’s it. Whether there’s a lot of people following or there’s nobody out there . . . It’s still the same. It’s still about winning the event. That’s why I played as a junior, all the way through to now is just to try to kick everyone’s butt. That to me is the rush. That’s the fun. That’s the thrill.”