By Ann Liguori
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Tiger Woods addressed the golf media this afternoon and what immediately seemed most apparent about the four-time Master’s champion is that his demeanor was much more at ease and he seemed much happier. He spoke like an ‘elder’ spokesman at times, with maturity and wisdom. There was a peacefulness about Tiger that I haven’t seen in years!
Of course, when you’re a professional golfer and in Tiger’s case, the best who ever played the game, nothing cures a few lousy years more than winning. And Tiger comes into this Masters, having won a PGA Tour event a few weeks back for the first time in two years, six months and 12 days. If winning is a cure-all for mental peace and stability, then having won the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five strokes a few weeks ago and the Chevron World Challenge in December, 2011, was the best medication.
But it’s been three years and ten months since Tiger last won a Major. (The last two years here, Tiger finished tied for fourth. Not bad considering where his game and mental state were, leading into this event in 2010 and 2011). Last week I wrote about how Tiger’s shot-making and putting is right where he wants it to be, leading into this Masters. This week, I hear and see in Tiger a mental stability, an inner peace, which should help him tremendously in trying to win his 15th Major over-all.
“This is my 18th year (at The Masters), so I’ve spent just about half my life playing this tournament,” said Tiger. “It’s understanding how to play this golf course, where to miss it. I’ve gotten just umpteen amount of advice from guys who have played here way more than I have…over the years of playing with Raymond and Freddie and Ollie and Nick Price, you name it, right on down the list, of just understanding how to play this golf course.”
Tiger says he doesn’t mind passing along course advice to others. “Today I played with Sean (O’Hair) and we were talking about the golf course and what flag you fire at and where do you want to miss it to this flag, where do you hit over the green to this…I help him as much as I possibly can and we’re playing together tomorrow. He wants some more advice on the other nine holes (he laughs). Obviously I had something good to say I guess. I think it’s just the role of being here, one, as a champion and being here a number of years, is that you pass knowledge on. It’s not something that we hold and are going to keep sacred. We pass it on from one generation to the next. That’s what we do.”
A wiser, more mature Tiger? An elder statesman, if you will? At 36-years-of-age, absolutely.
Answering questions about Rory, Tiger was quite congenial. Asked if anything about Rory reminds him of him, Tiger responded: “Yeah, obviously, he can move the ball out there. I used to move it like that back in yesteryear….” (Tiger laughed) “You know,” Tiger continued, “Rory has all the makings of being a great champion for a long period of time…He’s put himself there. Seems like every single tournament he plays in, he’s in the Top-10, and that’s great to see.”
Winning must be a cure-all for Tiger. Today he sounded humble and kind, mature and likeable. Tiger is in a better place, mentally, than I’ve seen him in years. And since golf is 80 per cent mental, if not more, his calmer, more peaceful mental state will help him tremendously as he prepares to win his fifth Green Jacket.
Be sure to catch Ann’s reports on WFAN with previews starting Wednesday. For more information on Ann, visit her web site at www.annliguori.com