CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For a moment so casual on a day that was still so young, there was quite a buzz set in motion beneath some trees off the first green at the Quail Hollow Club.
The only thing is, the curiosity seemed grossly misdirected.
The focus shouldn’t have been on how a young boy had come to have his photo taken with Tiger Woods during the Quail Hollow Championship pro-am. The silliness is that media folks swept in like a bunch of Jimmy Olsens to dig deeper into “a story” that truly wasn’t a story.
That, in turn, led to Andrew Nicholson answering questions as if he were back in front of his kindergarten teacher instead of getting a day off to watch golfers play golf. His name, his age, his purpose for being at Quail Hollow . . . it was all discussed in rapid-fire manner, and again, the head-shaking part of it all is that it got recorded.
Apparently because nothing is too trivial when it comes to supplementing the Woods saga. His every move, his every word, his every swing, his every grunt, his every smile is treated not casually, but with a layer of embellishment that makes it difficult to assess where we are sometimes.
For instance, stopping to pose for a photo with a 6-year-old at 7:40 in the morning got noted, presumably, because it indicates Woods is making an effort to be kinder and softer with fans. But, come on. This was a pro-am, and players always interact with fans during a pro-am – Woods included. At the same time, on the other side of the course, Geoff Ogilvy and Lucas Glover were into their pro-am rounds and most likely signing autographs at every green, too.
And sure enough, guess what took place more than an hour after Woods stopped to pose so that Andrew Nicholson could take that memorable photo of his son, Andrew, with the world’s best golfer? If you guessed that the Nicholsons were taking further advantage of the pro-am landscape, you are correct. This time, they implored Vijay Singh to stop for a photo en route to the fourth tee.
“You’re my son’s favorite player,” the father said to the big Fijian. Singh stopped, Mr. Nicholson snapped, and chalk it up to yet another happy entry in the PGA Tour’s pro-am experience.
No one from the media stopped to interview the Nicholsons at this point. No one was taking note of the fact that Singh had signed autographs for six fans before the photo.
That’s because it’s not news when an autograph is signed or a photo op is executed during a pro-am day. It’s as much a part of the PGA Tour landscape as courtesy cars and titanium drivers.
That landscape includes Woods, who surely has signed autographs and stopped for photos during pro-ams. But given the world in which he now lives – totally a self-inflicted mess, to be sure – the scrutiny knows no boundaries.
Still, his stated intention to “be more respectful of the game and acknowledge the fans” cannot logically be evaluated for 24 months or so, which is a truer test than the 24 days he’s had since coming out of seclusion. So why monitor his every footstep, his every smile, his every swing of the club – during a pro-am, no less?
Makes no sense, especially since what can you honestly ascertain from watching a player go through the motions of a practice round? Wasn’t Woods also fan-friendly and flashing smiles wider than an Augusta fairway during practice rounds of Augusta? Sure he was. Yet, in the frenzy of Sunday’s final round, what lasting image overshadowed Woods’ four days of play? His short and standoffish interview with CBS’ Peter Kostis, from which you could assume Woods was disgusted with his fourth-place finish and hardly enamored with losing.
Both of which are accurate points, but neither of which makes Woods an exception. Lots of colleagues treat losing with an equally sour disposition.
With Woods, there are bound to be exaggerations at both ends of the spectrum. Stopping to sign an autograph or acknowledge a fan with a photo op is no big deal, and we shouldn’t make too much of it. It’s not proof that he’s morphing into Peter Jacobsen. But it’s also a mistake to assess every scowl, every angry outburst, and every sign of displeasure and treat that as confirmation that he’s a disgrace to the game.
The truth, as it most always does, probably sits somewhere between our extreme reactions both positive and negative.
We won’t know, however, until we let it play out for a period much longer than 24 days.