by Jeff Skinner
Since the fine people at The Deutsch Bank Championship were kind enough to award me with media credentials I took a ride up to Boston today and spent some time with the big boys at The TPC Boston. I was fortunate to catch Tiger, Ernie and Vijay as they gave their post Pro-Am round interviews. TPC Boston looks in terrific shape and all the players complimented the condition of the course.
On Wednesday on the Golf Channel the always astute John Hawkins said he thought he saw a change in Tiger’s behavior lately. I’m paraphrasing, but Hawkins, who is in the know on all things golf, said that Tiger seems to take a different approach towards most tournaments now. He said that three or four years ago Tiger would spend more time on the tournament site, practicing and preparing for the tournament. It appears to Hawkins that Woods now shows up later, spends less time on site and is always on the move to his next meeting or appointment. It is difficult for mere mortals like myself to try and comprehend how busy and how many demands all these high profile players have in their life. If Hawkins has seen enough to come to that opinion, I’ll take his word for it. I was at the Deutsche Bank for one afternoon and tried to catch all the interviews I could. Here is how I saw it.
In the media center the interview schedule for Thursday was handed out and read: Ernie Els 11:45am, Tiger Woods after 6:50am Pro-am (outside), Vijay Singh after 7:40am Pro-am, Steve Stricker after 8:50 Pro-am. So Woods would hold his press conference outside, and he did. As soon as his Pro-am was over he made his way to a roped off area by the scoring trailer and stood in front of a bunch of cameras and reporters. He spoke for ten minutes and answered all the questions. He called the greens “perfect” and said “the fairways are in great shape”. He talked about not settling for second place, his relationship with Deutsche Bank, his knee, Ernie’s knee, his putting and the greens. It was actually kind of nice because the entire area was mobbed with fans and kids and they got to see Tiger and the press do their bit right there in front of them. The kids were lined up five deep along “Autograph Alley” hoping to snag the toughest signature in sports. After ten minutes Tiger finished up and took off with three or four members of his team through a roped off aisle and strode out to a waiting cart. No autographs for those kids. I can’t say if Tiger had signed a bunch earlier today but afterwards he looked like he wanted out of there as soon as possible. Maybe Hawkins is on to something.
Shortly after that, Ernie Els was in the media center for his interview. He was personable and honest and shared a laugh with the press when he was asked about his defunct “three year plan”. Els had stated about three years ago that he was trying to be number one in the world. His plan has been derailed by injury and family issues and he was amused that anyone remembered his plan. He too praised the course, talked of coming back too soon from his knee injury and his crazy schedule. After Sunday’s Barclays he flew to Canada for a golf outing on Monday. On Monday evening he flew to one of his homes in the Bahamas and flew up for the tournament Thursday morning. That’s a busy week and he hasn’t started to work yet. After his interview he took some time to pose for pictures with Brent Edelman who had won the FedEx Cup First Tee Scholarship and was enrolled at MIT. I watched as Ernie congratulated him and asked him about school as they took pictures with some Fed Ex suits. Ernie looked genuinely interested, in spite of his busy schedule.
After Els, Vijay Singh came in to the media center for his sit down with the scribes and cameras. Vijay said he is starting to play better and with his two wins here he is very comfortable on this course. He hopes this place gives him some confidence for the week. He talked about course strategy and when asked about his win last year when he blew the field away he said, “I think if somebody shoots 22 under this year they’re going to win. Hopefully it’s me.” When he was done with all the questions, as he was walking out he was approached by a reporter with a request for a few minutes of one on one. He obliged without hesitation.
After my long drive home, I switched on the Golf Channel and watched a video report by Steve Sands and Randall Mell about Phil Mickelson buying his entire gallery lunch on the twelfth hole. According to Mell, Phil turned to the gallery and said “We’re all sluggish” and proceeded to bring everyone over to the concession stand and order lunch for them all. That’s Phil for you. He is one of a kind.